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'Team for Russia shows Schmidt...
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'Team for Russia shows Schmidt is sticking to plan' | Shane Byrne

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

11:51 1 Oct 2019

Former Ireland international Shane Byrne was on Tuesday's OTB AM to discuss Joe Schmidt's much-changed XV to face Russia on Thursday.

The 41-time international relayed his view that Schmidt's 11 changes to the team was a positive sign that the New Zealander is sticking to his plan despite the 19-12 loss to Japan last weekend.

"It's great to see that there's no panic with the squad," Byrne told OTB AM, "in the simple sense that he isn't going out with same-old-same-old again."

"Remember, this happened back in '07 when Eddie [O'Sullivan] picked the same team pretty much right the way through because results didn't go his way.

"It's good to see that they are willing to make changes and give the squad opportunities."

While Byrne admits it's more difficult now as the squad's aims in the Pool have undoubtedly changed after the loss to Japan, the former Lions hooker said he was enthused by the number of players who will get their chance against Russia.

"There are guys going to go in there who are not going to leave anything behind, particularly Kilcoyne, Scannell. These guys have a superb opportunity. Kilcoyne in particular, every time he's come off the bench he's had an impact."

In addition, Byrne said he was delighted to see Tadgh Byrne was starting having impressed so many times as a substitute. "These guys deserve to stake their claim on it", Byrne said.

Byrne highlighted his view that the performance of Andrew Conway and the opportunity to see how he fares in defence could be one of the most interesting aspects of the Russia match.

"We know he is absolutely outrageous as a try-scorer and a superb player. We know he'll tackle a man-mountain heading towards him but from day one he has found it very hard to behave in a set defensive pattern.

"Look, Conway's form has been immense. For a season himself and Earls have been fantastic, and would there be a chance now, an opportunity, for Conway to stake a real claim?"

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