Joe schmidt revealed yesterday that neither Marty Moore or Tadhg Furlong were fit enough to feature in this weekend’s match with Scotland but former Ireland tighthead Paul Wallace feels it is too early to worry about a lack of game-time for the props.
“There is still a bit of time to go. I think they always like giving Mike (Ross) some game time. They try and work him very hard. He’s a big man and they’re trying to keep the weight down and keep him trim for when he comes in.
“Obviously Marty Moore is a concern. It’s a concern he hasn’t played in the first two but I wouldn’t be getting worried yet. I think it’s very important that he does get a run. I think getting at least one and a half games under your belt is important.
“Cian Healy is a more pressing concern. I think he’s a pretty vital Irish player. Guys can come in and do a good job, like McGrath and Kilcoyne is dynamic, a bit like Cian, but he brings it to a new level. So I think he’s a key player and there’s a big concern around him.”
But one player that will get a chance to impress against the Scots is uncapped Kiwi prop Nathan White, who has been named on the bench. The 33-year-old, now with Connacht but formerly of Leinster, has been badly affected by injury but Wallace believes his return is a big positive for Ireland.
“For me, the big positive is Nathan White coming back in. I think he’s a very underrated player. He’s had big injuries but down in Connacht he’s been a key player when you talk about Bundee Aki, Henshaw and all these players down there. For me, he’s the most vital player down there and Connacht without him are a different side.
“I think he’s the kind of player that could put serious pressure on Mike Ross if he got a good run of form. So, I’ll be very interested to see how he gets on. He’s gotten very little game time, Marty Moore has gotten very little game time so it puts a lot of pressure on Mike Ross.”
Michael Bent is another tighthead playing his way into contention after a difficult start to his Ireland career. He won his third cap last weekend against Wales, having won the first two of his three caps in the 2012 November Test series. Wallace believes he could be selected in the squad due to his versatility.
“All the noise coming out is that Michael Bent is the guy being primed to play loose and tight. I know, from my experience being thrown in without any training from tight to loose head, that I found it easier. I know Peter Clohessy did the same when he moved across and it made a big difference to his career. It’s a much easier position.
“Okay, there are some technique changes that you need to do but I’d always, if I was picking a squad, have the extra tighthead there. Also, the workload on a tighthead is a lot more, especially within a game and that can take its toll over a period, with the amount of test matches you play during a World Cup period.”
Debates are raging all over the country over who people think deserve a place in the squad but one of the biggest decisions will be whether to name five or six props for the tournament.
“I think they will probably go with 5,” says Wallace. “That would be my feel on it.”
“You could probably go with 5 back rowers too and I think Henderson will be picked as a second row, so he could cover both, which would really give you 6 back rowers as well.
“I’d bring Donnacha Ryan, although I don’t think he’s an international backrow. He does the job for Munster but I wouldn’t fancy him going in at test level, especially in a high tempo game.”