At a press conference this afternoon in the team hotel, Ireland assistant coach Niall O’Donovan discussed training ground knocks, the World Cup selection process and the team for Saturday’s game against Scotland. Read on for more.
ON TODAY’S TRAINING SESSION/INJURY UPDATE:
“This morning Paddy Wallace went over on his ankle, he rolled his ankle – it’s nothing too serious – Ronan finished the session for him. He should be okay for the weekend.
“Simon Best had a bit of back pain so didn’t really take part in the session. John Hayes filled in for him there. Again he will be okay for the weekend. Tommy Bowe came through everything okay so that sums up all the little niggles that are there (in the squad).”
ON TOMMY BOWE’S FITNESS:
“Tommy came through everything this morning. You never really know until you see what way he is in the afternoon or what way he is when he gets up in the morning but he completed everything today and did a tough session yesterday as well so it’s looking very good for him.”
ON NERVES IN CAMP BEFORE THE WORLD CUP SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT:
“I don’t think there are many nerves. Guys are now just concentrating on trying, and trying hard to impress. You know they’re working very hard I must say. That’s the hardest part of this job actually trying to cut seven guys away from it.
“The 37 guys that are there, you know you’d be happy to go with any of them. But they’re the rules of the competition and seven have to go.”
ON IRELAND FIELDING A SECOND STRING TEAM AGAINST SCOTLAND:
“Scotland are putting out their best side but you see in a lot of positions we have, there’s very little between some of the guys going out this weekend and the guys who we consider our first 15, say the 15 that played against England.
“For these guys (this Saturday) they’re going out to play an international as if they are the first 15 and they are the first team this weekend, there’s no doubt about. That’s in their minds that they’re representing Ireland this weekend, they’re the team that were picked.
“I can’t see them saying that we’re the second team and we’re playing a first team. These are guys who really want to play at the World Cup, want to make the first team at the World Cup and they’ll be going out to prove it.”
ON THE FRINGE PLAYERS’ CHANCES OF MAKING THE FIRST TEAM:
“If they play well this weekend and they get another go before the tournament starts or they play well against Namibia or Georgia and other guys haven’t hit form as much as we would have liked, the door has to be kept open for them to come into position.
“At the moment you would say we’re locked and loaded as far as the first team is concerned, but you can never say what is going to happen six weeks down the road.”
ON THE WORLD CUP SELECTION PROCESS:
“If you go back four years ago, it was probably easier to pick the 30 people going (to the World Cup). You picked the first 20 but now it’s hard to pick the 30 guys. The gap has closed, there’s no doubt about it – the second 15 can perform as well as the first 15 in lots of positions.”
ON THE PLAYERS ON THE BENCH AND THOSE EXCLUDED FOR THE SCOTLAND GAME:
“We said going to Argentina that we’d look at them in Argentina and we’d make decisions really on what happened in Argentina and the previous season. To bring it all down to one final match this weekend would be unfair. We’re trying to give them all a fair chance.
“They all got a chance over in Argentina. We’re just looking at something different, so when we go and sit down and make decisions on Saturday that we’ve tried everything. We know exactly what the three lads – Trevor Hogan, Leo Cullen and Mick O’Driscoll – can do in the second row.
“We want to see the back rows now. You know we could pick any three out of nine players and you’d be happy enough with the back rows you’d have.
“We have to make really final decisions on back rows and we wanted to see all of those and give them all a fair chance of playing this weekend, whereas if you give one of the second rows a chance of actually playing this weekend it would be unfair on the other two. We know exactly where we stand with the three of them (Hogan, Cullen and O’Driscoll).
“Lots of things come into it (the selection process), you could pick anyone of those three locks and they all bring strengths. The thing is to get the one that will strengthened the squad as much as possible.”
ON THE NUMBER OF SECOND ROWS AND BACK ROWS TO BE SELECTED FOR THE WORLD CUP:
“Not 100% certain. We want to see everything by next Saturday night, we want to make sure that when we go in we have all the information that we need to actually sit down and pick 30 guys – whether it’s going to be 17-13 or 16-14. We need to make sure the guys we’re bringing are the best to do a job for us and cover all the things that might happen in a tournament like the World Cup.”
ON THE LACK OF BALL TIME FOR CERTAIN PLAYERS DURING THE ARGENTINA TOUR:
“Going to Argentina we told everybody going: ‘this is where you need to impress…this is probably seen as the final chance.’ You take into consideration all the work they’ve done in that season also.
“Guys like the back three didn’t get a whole lot of quality ball so they are getting another half chance to impress. I would say that we’re 90-95% there in where we’re thinking. We’re looking to copperfasten it this weekend.
“Also you have to go on (what happens in training). Attitude to training, body language in general, the way they go about their work and fit in with the squad – all these little bits and pieces are taken into consideration.”