Football, Rugby, UFC, GAA
All free when you join eir Broadband
Joe Schmidt has dismissed fears that his Ireland players will be suffering from burnout from the long season as they prepare to take on South Africa.
Ireland are already missing Peter O'Mahony, Rob and Dave Kearney, Jonathan Sexton, Cian Healy, Sean O'Brien, Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald and by the time of the third test on June 25th, most of the players present will have been playing for a full calendar year without any kind of extended break.
The provinces' early ejection from European competition did lighten their workload as the season drew to a close and Schmidt feels this means they have played less game-time this year compared to last.
"From my perspective, our game minutes are down this year so our players have actually played a little bit less this year compared to last year," he said.
"It's a World Cup year - any year post-World Cup, I agree, that season is long.
"By the time you take the pre-season, the four warm-up Test matches, and as soon as you're playing matches at a high level, they're more attritional mentally as well as physically because you've got to really extend yourself because you know your opponent is at a very high level.
"From that perspective, it is tough. From the coaches perspective, we're incredibly excited about the opportunity this gives us.
"If there are guys missing, I'm going to know more about Tiernan O'Halloran, more about Matt Healy in a week-to-week environment.
"I've been down to Connacht. I've seen them train. I've certainly seen them play a lot of times.
"But you get to know a player more and you see him slot in and you say, 'there's the level, here it is now, how will he go? Gee, you're coping really well'.
"That's another stride you can take, so this is a really good opportunity for us.
"One of the things a lot of people reference is the depth of our playing pool. I think this is a really good opportunity to extend that depth and find out more about players.
"What better time to do it when you've got time to build on those players you see showing you promise.
"It is an attritional year because of its longevity. It hasn't been as much because of the actual game time that players have played but there is a volume in training that does take its toll."