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Joe Schmidt: Canada will test Ireland World Cup ambitions

By David Kelly

If beating the All Blacks was one of the prime profes­sional motives in Joe Schmidt determining whether or not he wanted to stay on as Ireland coach, in a strange way so was the prospect of beating Canada this week.

An entirely new XV may feature a trio of former Lions players and a clutch of seasoned pros, but the slew of new talent - even a grizzled 31-year-old lock from the traditional Munster old school - offer glimpses of a bright future that energises a coach who demands constant renewal from himself and those around him.

Sure, there were family rea­sons and though it may seem indecent to say it, one is sure that Schmidt, his family and his accountants would have ensured that one of the world's most sought-after coaches was also handsomely rewarded.

However, it is the ever con­stant husbanding of new talent which drives any head coach on and, even though the World Cup, his final engagement, remains a distant three years away, that remaining glass ceiling for Irish rugby may be shattered by some of those lin­ing out against the Maple Leafs tomorrow evening.

And, in publicly stressing his commitment to Ireland's 2017 summer tour, in a most polite but firm rebuttal to the Lions' brains trust, his excitement at the cadre of players brimming beneath the heroes of Soldier Field is clearly evident.

"Part of it is that I really enjoy this group," revealed Schmidt, after unveiling a first XV that is entirely altered from that which downed the All Blacks in Chicago so stunningly last Saturday.

"I think we have a really cohesive coaching team as well. Obviously there are a lot of family-based reasons as well that really made a difference and there were also some of the other opportunities that were around.

"But there's a lot of talent coming through as well. And it's about trying to meld it into a really strong collective who work hard for each other but also who complement each other on the pitch.

"You always look for new players. You maybe play a dozen Tests a year so you don't get too many windows to actually allow people to put their hand up other than watching them very closely in Europe and in derby games.

"But to play at the next level up, that is where you want to see them best and that is where the opportunity allows us to do it this week.

"At the same time, the guys who delivered last week and who are not available this week have also given us good service so we are always trying to mix and match.

"So hopefully over the next year or so, in the Six Nations, then the US and Japan coming up, we will be able to work our way through that group and have a really good look at that."

That process begins in ear­nest tomorrow evening and much of the focus will alight upon the unassuming shoulders of the exciting Leinster centre Garry Ringrose.

"I first saw Garry in his senior cup year playing for Blackrock College," recalls Schmidt of the 21-year-old.

"He was kicking goals then from all over the place and he had a super game in the final and was really impressive.

"He was very lean, but quite a natural footballer and so I felt there was some talent there.

"He was really close to play­ing last week."

At No 8, Jack O'Donoghue's impressive form and versatility at Munster for over a season now has also earned him a first call-up.

"Jack first impressed me at under-20 level, particularly when he led the Under-20s in New Zealand to the semi-finals," he said.

"I spoke to him out there and he impressed me as a guy who was very level-headed and very driven to get to the highest possible level."

  • Ireland v Canada, Guinness Series: Aviva Stadium, Tomorrow, 7.15pm

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