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McNaughton: We’re Fighting Fit And Confidence Is High

McNaughton: We’re Fighting Fit And Confidence Is High

First things first. Ireland have no serious injury worries to contend with ahead of Saturday week’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Scotland at Murrayfield. The squad are training in Cork this week before switching back to Dublin at the weekend.

Commenting on the recovery period since the England game, Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton said: “Everybody’s in decent shape. They’re all sore, tired and stuff like that but they’re in good shape.

“There’s no serious injury scares. There’s a couple of guys off their feet this week, more out of rest than anything.

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“We anticipate we’ll be able to pick from a full squad for the Scotland game.”

A number of the international players, including Rory Best, Mick O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, are back with the provinces this week.

Looking at it from an Ireland point of view, McNaughton explained that the performances of those players in this weekend’s Magners League matches could help them force their way back into the Irish starting line-up.

“They’ve been released to the provinces so that they can play some football and all of the (Ireland) coaches either go to the matches or watch the matches.

“Their performances will be taken into account, because there are some very close calls in several positions and some of those players are playing at the weekend so it’s not a useless exercise at all.”

Scotland are next up on the Championship schedule and although Frank Hadden’s men are out of the title race, McNaughton knows they will fight for every ball at Murrayfield and right until the final whistle.

“We set out our stall at the start to take it one game at a time. We’ve won the first three games. We view Scotland as a tough game and did actually always view Scotland as a tough game.

“The fact that we’ve won three out of three means there is a very positive mood going into the last two games.

“While everybody else has been focusing on a big (Grand Slam) clash in Cardiff, we know that really Scotland are going to provide a very tough test for us. I think everybody around here knows that too.”

These in-between weeks where Ireland have no match affords the Irish management a chance to take stock of how things have been progressing for the squad, both on and off the pitch.

McNaughton is only a short time in his position, having been appointed last May, but already he has seen big strides made since the opening games of the new regime in November.

That can only augur well as the players and coaches prepare for season-defining trips to Edinburgh and Cardiff.

“There’s a lot more sense of purpose and maturity and confidence in the team than there was at the start of the season and in November.

“There’s certainly been a big improvement in confidence and knowledge of what they’re try to achieve in a short period of time,” McNaughton added.