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Tour Gives Us A Chance To ‘Widen The Net’ – Schmidt

Tour Gives Us A Chance To ‘Widen The Net’ – Schmidt

The excitement is building ahead of the Ireland squad’s departure for Argentina on Sunday, with Joe Schmidt looking forward to his first international tour as a head coach.

As the domestic season comes to a mouth-watering conclusion with Leinster bidding to retain their RaboDirect PRO12 title, thoughts will quickly turn to Ireland’s two-Test summer tour of Argentina.

The reigning RBS 6 Nations champions will want to continue their winning ways by overcoming the Pumas who have been sticky opponents for Ireland over the years, particularly on home soil.

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Ireland have never won a Test match in Argentina having lost three previous summer clashes with the Pumas over the years, going down 34-23 in 2000 and losing both Tests in 2007 (22-20 and 16-0).

That will give the travelling 30-man squad some added incentive, as if they needed it with competition for places intensifying as the countdown to the 2015 Rugby World Cup continues.

There are four uncapped players boarding the plane to Argentina – scrum half Kieran Marmion, front rowers Rob Herring and James Cronin and back rower Robbie Diack – and Joe Schmidt admitted that increasing squad depth is a definite focus for the coaching staff.

Speaking at the ‘Rabo Tackles Rugby’ Game On special on 2fm, Schmidt said: “If you look at the landscape between now and the World Cup, or even next year’s Six Nations, I think this is the one window where we can get away and maybe leave a few players behind to recover fully from niggly injuries or get a bit of a rest period, and for us to, I suppose, widen the net a little bit and look at how players are developing.

“For me it would be fantastic if we can get the two results because I don’t think it’s something that’s been done before.

“But at the same time it would be great to find out a little bit about the four guys that are uncapped and a number of other guys who haven’t had too many caps or opportunites.”

The event, hosted at Lansdowne Rugby Club by Game On presenter Damien O’Meara, brought together three Leinster legends – Schmidt, Isa Nacewa and Malcolm O’Kelly – to discuss the province’s league decider against Glasgow Warriors as well as Ireland’s summer tour.

Schmidt is clearly relishing this opportunity to work with the players for a prolonged period, especially when you consider the number of young guns in the travelling party.

16 of the players have 10 Ireland caps or less, while 13 of them are aged 25 or under with 22-year-old duo Marmion and Iain Henderson and Cronin, Martin Moore, Jordi Murphy, Rhys Ruddock and Luke Marshall (all 23) the youngest of them all.

“There’s an exciting group going with us and we’re looking forward to getting away and seeing how those players operate in what I’d say is going to be a fairly hostile environment,” continued the Ireland head coach.

“We come into camp on Sunday to get on a flight, so we don’t have a lot of time with them but we do have those two full weeks.

“When you see them (the players) every day and the way they prepare not just train, you do get to learn a fair bit about players, and I think that’s a good investment for the upcoming GUINNESS Series into next year’s Six Nations.”

Schmidt said two of the real positives for the Irish set-up from the Six Nations was the ‘competition for places’ and ‘the camaraderie that developed in that short period’.

The New Zealander had an observational role on Ireland’s 2013 summer tour when current assistant coach Les Kiss took charge of the squad and oversaw wins over the USA and Canada.

Looking forward to his first tour since his coaching days with the Auckland Blues, Schmidt added: “The last time I went away on tour was with the Blues in the Super Rugby Championship. It’s going to be a bit of a novel experience for me after having coached in Europe for so long where you go away overnight for a game but you don’t go away in a tour situation or a mini tour.

“It’ll be interesting, it’s something I’m really looking forward to. I did manage to catch the back half of the North American tour last year.

“I really enjoyed seeing the players in that environment and I’m hopeful that we can get similar results away to Argentina.”

To listen back to the full ‘Rabo Tackles Rugby’ episode of 2fm’s ‘Game On’, please click here.