With the Rugby World Cup in Japan less than 50 days away, the Irish team will be focusing on warm-up games over the next few weeks. 

Italy is up first this weekend as a number of fringe players will get at the chance to stake their claim for the World Cup squad.

Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, former Connacht fly-half Andy Dunne said no matter what game it is you're never safe from injury.

"It's practically impossible for the modern professional to protect themselves in these warm-up games.

"They're judged in so many ways by their own management team. They're judged by contributions to general play.

"They're judged on things like positive yards in contact versus just making contact.

"Each detail is data-driven and broken down and it can be used as a means to beat them over the head with if they're not playing well," Dunne said.

Players don't want to get injured so close to the World Cup and Dunne thinks subconsciously the players are wary of that.

"I still think guys naturally whether they'll admit to it or not can avoid certain situations that are reckless.

"I would like to think that our guys are thinking that way actually. I don't buy into the geronimo jump in and hope for the best attitude.

"I think there is a way to self manage in the lead-up and hopefully avoid injury but modern-day rugby is very difficult to avoid injury," he said.

Proving your worth 

Rúaidhrí O'Connor from the Irish Independent said it's all down to where the player stands within the squad.

"It probably depends on your position and your place in the squad. If you look at Retallick getting injured for New Zealand over the ball.

"Say on Saturday if there is a player out there say a Johnny Sexton who we know is gonna go no matter what happens over the next four weeks.

"If they're over the ball and someone is coming at them they don't need to stay on the ball because they know they're selection isn't in doubt," O' Connor said.

There are plenty of players who will want to prove their worth during the warm-up games and don't have the same luxury.

"If Tommy O'Donnell is on the ball and he can win a jackal turnover, that will get him credit everywhere.

"He's gonna stay on the ball as long as he can and he's gonna put his hamstring at risk and his knees and everything else.

"The thing is you might be going in for a half-hearted tackle but the guy coming at you could be the fourth-ranked prop in the Italian squad and he's mad for road," he said.

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