Summer tour set to offer ‘window’ for Ireland fringe players

Ireland manager Joe Schmidt with plenty to ponder ahead of May 31 when he names his summer tour squad.

Ireland manager Joe Schmidt with plenty to ponder ahead of May 31 when he names his summer tour squad.

Ireland’s post-BOD era looks set to begin with many ‘fringe’ players getting their change against the Pumas this summer. It therefore looks very likely that coach Joe Schmidt will give some of his leading stars a well earned ‘break’ from this summer’s tour to Argentina beginning on 7 June.

Having tasted success in his maiden year as Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt is likely to attempt to broad his squad as much as he can. And to do that the Kiwi will need to maximise the benefit of the gruelling two-Test tour by both expanding and developing his squad as well as getting use to life without Brian O’Driscoll. And the fact that it could yet bet an All-Ireland Pro 12 final on 31 May means that the Ireland coach may have to wait until the ‘eleventh hour’ to finalise his travelling party to south America on the following day.

The summer tour squad is therefore unlikely to include recovering stars such as Sean O’Brien and Stephen Ferris as they continue to rehab after long-term injuries, not to mention Johnny Sexton after his gruelling first season in France. Even as seems likely that Racing Metro miss out on making the latter stages of the Top 14 play-offs, Joe Schmidt is unlikely to avail of Sexton’s availablity and instead opt to develop much needed ‘back-up’ for Ireland’s Number 10 shirt.

It looks certain that Schmidt will be determined to enjoy a positive and constructive tour in order to build on the Six Nations title success as part of the build up to the start of the 2015 World Cup in England. Part of that build-up will also be the coach’s objective in maintaining his side’s peak fitness which makes a refreshing change from previous summer tours when they were sometimes disregarded as being no more than an unnecessary prolonging of a hard season for the players involved.