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Joe Schmidt's risky business sees him cover all his bases ahead of Wales warm-up

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

In the old Wild West, according to Maverick, there were two types of people; the quick and the dead. In Joe Schmidt's world, however, the old quip has a new spin.

The New Zealander was discussing the balance of risk versus reward after naming his side to face Wales tomorrow (2.30pm) and came up with a mantra for all coaches to live by: "There's only two types of coaches, those who've been sacked and those who are on their way to being sacked. You're always taking a risk."

That seems a bit bleak for a man whose popularity ratings are the envy of politicians everywhere, but Schmidt is a man who is aware that not everyone will be happy when he names his World Cup squad early next week.

"I know that when we name our 31, some people will say 'it's unbelievable, how could he leave this guy or that guy out?'," he said.

"The one thing I challenge them to do is to look at as much footage, to have had as much discussion with the players that I have, to watch the amount of training that I have.

"That's probably the privileged position that you're put in, the access to more of the information than anyone else and then you take the risks.

"Then the imperfection of the 31 is the risk and in hindsight, someone potentially will be able to stand up and say, 'they got that wrong'. I've got to put my hand up then if we do get something wrong."

Since arriving in Ireland back in 2010, Schmidt has got very little wrong, but he concedes that the balancing act involved in picking a World Cup squad is a unique test.

The challenge for the coach is ensuring he has appropriate cover across each position.

"It's an imperfect process and it will be, potentially, not quite the perfect 31," Schmidt said. "There will be a degree of risk in some positions because our cover won't be as deep as we'd like and there'll be some good cover in other positions.

"If you try to do all things across the full 15 positions and the bench that you have to utilise in a game, there's always a degree of compromise and a degree of risk."

Against Wales, as expected, he hands a first start to a host of his front-liners, with Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw, Jonny Sexton, Conor Murray and Peter O'Mahony making their first appearance of the season.

Paul O'Connell makes his first start on his final appearance as an Ireland player at the Aviva, while Rory Best is kept on ice but will start against England.

Luke Fitzgerald gets a chance to show what he can do in midfield, while Keith Earls and Dave Kearney can impress again on the wings.

The coach conceded that the back-row positions are signed and sealed, while a strong cameo from Donnacha Ryan off the bench can help him see off Dan Tuohy.

Along with the back-three, the front-row is the major talking point but, while Marty Moore trained yesterday, the odds are against him making the plane as long as Nathan White copes well with Wales' Gethin Jenkins.

Belfast Telegraph


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