Ireland’s Grand Slam Win Has Created Two Massive Problems For Joe Schmidt

Decisions, decisions.

Joe Schmidt has some big decisions to make in the coming months, as he gets set to bring his Grand Slam-winning side down under for a three-Test series against Australia.

The head coach will head south with a very strong squad, once again largely thanks to Ireland’s excellent ability to manage their players. Sure he’ll bring a few additions, like Tadhg Beirne perhaps for example. But by and large it will be his Six Nations squad.

After their recent heroics, it’s gonna be difficult to drop anyone. But Schmidt has two key decisions to make going forward. Who plays at seven, and what is his best centre partnership?

With Sean O’Brien out, Josh van der Flier came into the Six Nations in unbelievable form. But an injury ended his tournament early. In steps Dan Leavy, who ends up having the championship of his life.

So who does Schmidt pick as his openside going forward? Does he fall back to Sean O’Brien, who we know is one of the best sevens in the world when on-form? Or does he stick his stock in Dan Leavy now and give him a run all the way to the Rugby World Cup? Has it reached a stage where you just can’t rely on O’Brien’s fitness? Would he be a better explosive option off the bench?

It’s a tough one. And O’Brien may feel hard done by, but I’m thinking the latter would be a better option. Leavy was arguably the best forward in the entire championship, while O’Brien just seems to pick up injury, after injury.

Then there’s the centre partnership. What the hell does Schmidt do here once he has a full compliment? Chances are he won’t have to make that decision come this summer, with Chris Farrell and Robbie Henshaw long-term absentees. But come November he’s got to pick his best combination.

Personally I can’t see Bundee Aki being dropped. I touched on this in greater detail yesterday. I can see him playing the kind of role Jared Payne once did for Ireland. He’s become their rock in midfield. His role in Schmidt’s current system is so crucial.

But who do you drop? Ringrose? Henshaw? Farrell? I’m glad it’s not me making the decision. Two massive problems for Schmidt, but two problems most coaches would happily deal with.

Follow Me