19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
"The game is to fill a number of objectives. Obviously it is a warm-up game for the World Cup. Players starting this weekend probably won't play against Italy so it's probably the warm-up game for those players.
"The other aspect is that there are players playing for their place in the World Cup squad. They're the two major issues really. So they were the dynamics in selecting that team.
"The third issue is Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell starting. Brian O'Driscoll hasn't played a game of rugby since March 17. Paul O'Connell has had two games since March 10. So that's practically five months without a game so it's better to give them a chance early doors and get on the pitch having not played for so long."
ON USING ALAN QUINLAN AS A SECOND ROW:
"The situation is that I've a pretty good headset for the second row. I wish I had the same headset for the back row. Carrying two back rows into the game (against Scotland) is a chance for us to get those players off the bench and give them a chance to play.
"Alan (Quinlan) will cover second row if needs be. It's purely just trying to get more access to the areas of the team that we need to know more information about. I'm reasonably happy with the data I have on the locks so the back row is the area that is causing me the greatest headaches in terms of selection."
ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SCOTLAND GAME:
"It's very significant. I always felt that this game would come to that for certain departments in the team - obviously the back row and the back three are areas that are really up for grabs.
"I suppose in going again with Gavin Duffy in the middle of the pitch, there's another chance to look at him there having performed well in Argentina. There are still issues outstanding in terms of selecting the World Cup squad, so it does take on a great deal of importance in that context.
"Much as we want to win the game on Saturday, we have to be honest and say it's a means to an end. But it is, as I expected, playing a role in the final selection for the World Cup."
ON THE FITNESS OF TOMMY BOWE:
"Tommy's situation is that he is pretty much certain to play (against Scotland). He picked up an (Achilles tendon) niggle last weekend, we scanned him and found he's fine. We've just given him these two days to stay off it, just to make sure he's firing on all cylinders for Saturday. If the worst came to the worst, I would put Andrew Trimble directly on the wing for him but I'm very hopeful that won't come about.
"It's an important game for Tommy because he got injured in the first Test against Argentina in Santa Fe. In fact he got a knock early in the game and played through it, then got a second knock. He didn't really get a good hit out on that tour and missed the second Test.
"That's why I'm anxious he plays in this one and I'll give him every opportunity to prove his fitness."
ON HIS WORLD CUP OUT-HALVES:
"The two fly-halves we have are Ronan (O'Gara) and Paddy (Wallace). I was very happy with Paddy in Argentina even though he didn't play the second Test. For Paddy it's more of a chance for him to play a game before the World Cup. The two out-halves in the squad at the moment are the two out-halves for the World Cup."
ON WINGERS TOMMY BOWE AND BRIAN CARNEY:
"It's difficult to dissect players publicly without being critical of them. They're both good strike runners, both good footballers. Tommy's been involved with the squad for a while now and he's a very capable player.
"Brian's come in and undoubtedly we took a punt on him going to Argentina based on the time he had to prepare. You have to say on what we saw in Argentina it was very positive so you'd have to give him another opportunity again.
"There's nothing in it between them at the moment, Saturday's a very important game for both of them. It's hard to differentiate between them, they're two very good players."
ON THE FORM OF GEORDAN MURPHY:
"I think Geordan could do with a game at full-back. He hasn't really featured for us all year that much. He didn't play too much for us during the tour to Argentina, he was in for the second Test.
"I'd like to see him play, get a game under his belt. Get his confidence back at full-back which maybe he struggled with this year when he didn't make the starting 15 for the Six Nations.
"He is an option at out-half as well, if needs be. He's a very talented footballer who can play across the line. I'm not saying that I will put him in at out-half on Saturday but I think that's a thought of him I have in my mind."
ON THE POTENTIAL FOR INJURIES IN WARM-UP GAMES:
"Everyone's in the same boat. There's nothing you can do. You can't not play warm-up games, you can't go into the World Cup cold. Of course there's risk in playing games, there's risk in everything but you can't wrap the players up in cotton wool. You've got to go out and play.
"I think there's no point in dwelling on Geordan Murphy's leg injury from four years ago, there's no relevance to next Saturday.
"They're the risks you take, you have to take them. You just keep your fingers crossed that everyone comes through healthy. It is an awful time to get injured, the day before the squad's announced, you have no chance to recover and it's an awful way to lose a spot in a World Cup squad. You can't dwell on it, you park it and get on with the game."
ON THE WORLD CUP SQUAD SPLIT - 16-14 OR 17-13:
"I haven't seen anything yet that would push me towards changing to a 17 forwards-13 backs split. I'm still very much hopeful that it will be 16-14, I'm 99% sure. I'm not 100% because if I had to change it for some reason at the last minute they'd never forgive me. I'm pretty sure about 16-14, I'd be surprised if I change from that format - I'm happy with that balance, the numbers.
"Having a squad of 30 players for a World Cup is very tight in terms of covering your options because you have to pick six players to cover two positions - you've got to pick three hookers and three scrum-halves - so that's six of your squad gone on two positions which puts huge pressure on getting the balance right with the other 24.
"It's almost like picking the squad of 24 is the hard part. I'm much more comfortable with 16-14. I think with the backs particularly you have a lot of fast-twitch athletes who tend to pick up niggles. A player might pick up a niggle that keeps him out of the World Cup for eight or ten days, suddenly a couple of those and you're struggling.
"I think you do take a risk around that. The gut feeling is that I'm not going to change unless something seriously changes my mind between now and Sunday."
ON HIS CURRENT SQUAD'S EXPERIENCE AND QUALITY:
"I'm very happy with where we are at the moment in terms of our development, fitness and skill set and the confidence in the squad and the competitiveness within the squad for places.
"It's much more competitive in the squad than four years ago which is a great thing for me. It does give you a lot of headaches but their headaches you don't mind living with because it means you're coming from a position of strength. Not tempting fate, if we come through on Saturday with a clean bill of health and Saturday night when we sit down to pick the squad, it'll be a tough selection process but I think we'll have a very, very good squad of players.
"I'd be very comfortable going with them - we've a lot of players who are interchangable, have a lot of experience and who are in the prime of their careers. It's a good landscape at the moment and hopefully it will stay that way."
ON KNOWING HIS STARTING 15:
"To be honest, I think we all know the first 15 at the moment. It was the first 15 that didn't go to Santa Fe and Buenos Aires, it was the 15 that pretty much played the England game.
"There's no secret in what the starting 15 is for Ireland but I think you have got to be realistic too. Players have to keep their form up, knowing that that starting 15 is only as good as its last game and if people step off, there's room for change now.
"There's guys breathing down their necks which is the healthy situation you want in any squad. You want that competitive edge, if you don't have it, human nature being what it is, players may slip off the job a bit. In a tournament like the World Cup, all it takes is a few players not to be firing on all cylinders and you're in trouble.
"There's always room for change I think and that's down to players' form. That's where we are at the moment but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to play for next weekend for the guys that are in there."
ON THE SELECTIONS FOR THE ITALY GAME AND THE WORLD CUP POOL MATCHES:
"I think it will be much closer to the starting 15 against Italy. That's why this game wil reflect the reciprocal selection of that. A lot will depend on how the players are feeling. The players are starting out for the season so they do need games under their belts.
"We'll have to try and rotate the squad as best we can, we'll have to manage the players if they're carrying any knocks. But you also have to get players ready for battle. As we progress through the tournament, you'd like to think we're going to get better and better - that's the key. With the best will in the world, you won't be on top of your game in the first game of the tournament.
"We'll be trying to build on every performance. How many changes we make from game to game will be a matter of a decision when we're actually there. I don't have a hard and fast strategy, I have an idea but I don't have a hard and fast strategy on how we'll play the pool matches."
ON NOT PLAYING PETER STRINGER AGAINST SCOTLAND:
"I was tempted but Peter's the kind of player who can come back quickly. He doesn't need a lot of match time before he's firing on all cylinders. Whereas Paul (O'Connell) certainly needs more time being a forward and Brian (O'Driscoll) needs more. Brian feels at the moment that he's quite rusty because his last game of rugby was in Rome in March.
"I wouldn't be as worried about Peter because I think he's quite capable of making that adjustment quickly."
ON PICKING STEPHEN FERRIS AT NUMBER 7:
"I wouldn't say 7 is Stephen's best position. He certainly can play there, but he's probably more of a 6 or 8 given his physique and skill set.
"You have to have a slightly different headset about back rows nowadays, because we're seeing less and less of the out-and-out openside groundhog. With the best will in the world, they can only get to every second ruck or every second breakdown and even in the modern game it's probably unlikely they will even do that.
"You find teams picking across the board, pretty much back rows with a similar skill set that they can carry the ball, they're pretty good on the ball and they're quite a physical presence.
"Stephen fits that bill obviously. Probably the big ask for him is to make that slight adjustment that is necessary now at 7 at a higher up level. I've seen him play for Ulster in that position quite comfortably but we have to remember that international level is a step up again.
"I think he's a very talented player, an exciting talent and he doesn't lack any enthusiasm for any job you give him. Getting him on the field is more important than playing him slightly out of position, it's a good trade off. It is an ask for him (on Saturday) but I think he's well capable of it."
ON WINNING THE WARM-UP MATCHES:
"You'd like to win the games. Last time out we did win our three warm-up games. It's always nice to go into a competition on the back of a few wins.
"But I think we have to accept that if you want to make sure you'll win games you'd pick your best team each week and go out and win them. That would get you the wins possibly but it certainly wouldn't give you the build-up you need.
"It's a trade off. As much as i would like us to win the games, I'd be happy if we played well and got some really good rugby under our belts and if the wins came on top of that, it would be a nice bonus. I'm not going to get hung up on it though."
ON THE BAYONNE MATCH ON AUGUST 16:
"It's pretty much confirmed now. The IRB have appointed a referee. It was something that they (Bayonne) came to us about, requesting if we would be interested in a game. We thought about, had a chat about and said that it would fit into our plans and would be nice to have a game at the very end of camp there.
"After that, we were both happy with it. It was just a case of getting through the red tape, making the applications to the IRB, getting the referee appointed - all that had to be done which takes a bit of time and it was only last week that all the red tape was gotten through and the fixture will go ahead now."