INTERNATIONAL RUGBY: Ireland boss Joe Schmidt welcomes tough selection calls ahead of New Zealand challenge

Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt insists he faces “tough decisions” over Ireland’s back-row, back-three and front-row for the side to take on New Zealand next weekend.

Ireland eased past Canada 52-21 in Dublin on Saturday night, in a comfortable albeit sloppy eight-try victory over the world’s 18th-ranked side.

Head coach Schmidt fielded an entirely new XV from the side that made history with the maiden win over the All Blacks, the 40-29 victory in Chicago.

Schmidt knows full well the All Blacks will pitch back up in Dublin on Saturday desperate to make amends - and hopes he will spend the first half of next week agonising over the Ireland XV for the eagerly-anticipated rematch.

“It’s tough, yeah - in the back-row, the back-three, even front-row there’s some tough decisions,” said Schmidt.

“So we’ll get together and sort those out. We’ll announce the squad on Thursday and that squad will have been really, really closely looked at.

“Hopefully it will be the right squad to give the All Blacks another really good game.”

The reality of Ireland’s situation is that Schmidt is unlikely to make changes from the starting line-up that downed the All Blacks for Saturday’s rematch.

Fit-again experienced back-rowers Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien will probably battle it out for a spot on the bench for the Aviva Stadium encounter.

Both loose-forwards showed up well against Canada without hitting their full stride.

Tiernan O’Halloran claimed a brace in the Canada triumph, with Keith Earls, Luke Marshall, Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion and James Tracy all crossing, and a penalty try completing the scoring.

Finlay Bealham could have done enough to challenge Tadhg Furlong’s starting berth at tighthead, while Earls will push hard to be included against the All Blacks too.

“Really I take quite a long time going back through the game,” said Schmidt.

“You get a gut feel post the game and there’s some tough decisions to make.

“Then you try to crystallise those decisions with a really intensive look back.

“Then you get together with the other coaches and they will all put in their opinions and we try to best judge what will be the best 15, 23, even 25.”