There’s certainly a future with some multinational corporation as a professional secret keeper for Joe Schmidt. Two warm up games to go, three weeks out from the opening round of the World Cup and still nothing is clearer. Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe, Gordon D’Arcy, Jack Conan and more have all been released to their provinces and he has a team including a third different 13 in as many weeks to go up against the Welsh. Then there’s those Ian “Scrum Half” Madigan rumours to boot…. ah here, let’s get into it.
Wales are coming to town with incentive out their ears. Nobody will tell you that more than Warren Gatland who has included as many Aces as possible in his side for tomorrow. Toby Faletau, Justin Tipuric, George North, Scott Williams – nothing even close to the experimental side that Ireland kicked off the month with. Warm up games and their importance is a topic of much debate every four years. Some will tell you that they are mere run-outs with injury risks causing players to withhold. Others say that they are the true chances players get to be noticed and fight for a chance. Whatever your opinion, this is not a normal warm up.
Wales hold the honour of having dealt Ireland one of the mere five defeats they have tasted since 2013. They’re also, lest we forget, the team that so rudely turned up and knocked Ireland out of the last World Cup. On the other side of that argument, Ireland handed the Welsh two absolute spankings in the last 18 months. Forget the Auld Enemy next week, this one is going to be intense. With all of this added in, does Schmidt want a win or performances? He has already said that the players released to the provinces are by no means ruled out, something that’s solidly reinforces by the presence of Trimble in that group. Both Schmidt and Lee Kiss have also been outspoken this week that they still don’t have a finalised squad and it looks like that decision could be well into Sunday evening being made.
Can Ireland afford the loss more importantly? Sure, it would affect little if there’s at least a performance and some lessons learned. Might drop to third in the world too. But forget all that because the only thing that matters is momentum. This is something Ireland have never gone into the World Cup with much of, at least not during the course of the warm ups anyway. Players like Jonathan Sexton, Connor Murray and Robbie Henshaw are only now entering the fray and need to keep the goodwill coming.
Yes a loss would be an acceptable disappointment, whatever that means, but Ireland are on a better course right now than they ever have been. It is scary to think this World Cup could go on to be something special for this country but as it looks that becomes more and more a possibility. Winning tomorrow is just another hugely important step towards that potential coveted goal. Maybe too, come the final whistle, we may get a little closer to getting into old Joe’s head too. Maybe.