Martin O’Neill isn’t the only new Ireland coach facing an Aviva Stadium debut in the coming days – Joe Schmidt will enjoy his own baptism of fire against Samoa at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The new Ireland rugby boss has been dealt a blow ahead of the first of three autumn tests with confirmation that Munster’s Keith Earls will definitely miss the game.
But Johnny Sexton, left on the bench as a precaution by his French club Racing Metro last weekend, has overcome a hip injury and is fit for selection.
Paul O’Connell, Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien are also fit for action against the Samoans as Schmidt looks to carry his success with Leinster at Heineken Cup level onto the international stage.
With games against Australia and world champions New Zealand to come, it promises to be an interesting month for the Kiwi born coach and his players.
Leinster scrum-half Eoin Reddan knows Schmidt well from their work together at the RDS and says the players from the other provinces have enjoyed working with Schmidt in the build-up to the Samoa clash.
Reddan said, “Obviously you are interested to know what they are thinking as it’s going on. I would have definitely spoken to a few of them about it and they have all really enjoyed it.
“There has been a high intensity in training at all times. You know you finish a session feeling like you have done a lot of work.
“In that work there is a lot to be learned mentally. Joe is very good at teaching people that as well as having high expectations of them.”
Samoa may be the lesser lights as regards Ireland’s three November opponents, but Reddan knows the side ranked eighth in the world – Ireland are seventh – deserve to be treated with respect.
“We know what we are up against this weekend. Outside the squad, people normally don’t know what you are up against, so expectations can be very high and there is a bit of a gap of what is expected and what is a reality,” Reddan said.
In other rugby news, Munster are back on top of the Rabo12 League after a 12-6 win over the Ospreys at Thomond Park. Ulster lost 17-9 to Llanelli in Wales and Connacht lost 19-12 to Glasgow in Galway. Leinster scraped a 23-19 win at home to the Dragons.
Ireland lock Donncha O’Callaghan has signed a new contract with Munster that will keep him with the Reds until 2016.