How will new faces in the Irish Rugby set-up prepare us for the Autumn Series?

Gerry Thornley and Keith Wood spoke on this evening's Wednesday Night Rugby

The IRFU continued their recruitment this today as they announced leading NFL talent coach, Nick Winkelman, will be joining the federation to work as Head of Athletic Performance and Science.

Earlier this year they struck a deal with former England assistant Andy Farrell to become the new Ireland defence coach.

Farrell has been working with Munster over the past 10 weeks and will now link up with Joe Schmidt as the curtain closes on the Six Nations.

Speaking on tonight's Wednesday Night Rugby, Keith Wood and Gerry Thornley discussed Ireland's defensive performance throughout the campaign.

"When you look at the stats we didn't miss an awful lot of tackles but we didn't make a lot of tackles either" Wood said.

"I think we were a bit narrow defensively, I do think Mike Ross does very well at scrum time. I don't think you can be relying on a 36-year-old like we did with John Hayes. That's twice we've got into that position and we can't allow ourselves to be in that position.

"I know we've been unlucky with some of these injuries but we need to start blooding some of these players sooner. We have to give them the opportunity to learn by failure. It's a tough one but it is the nature of front row play."

CJ Stander is tackled by Willem Nel during Ireland's final Six Nations fixture with Scotland. Image: ©INPHO/Colm O'Neill

The next big challenge Ireland face now face South Africa on their home soil in June. Gerry Thornley discussed the option of playing a power game against the Southern hemisphere side.

"I think that Ireland will be a more potent side in South Africa, with the key game of the Tour being the first one in Cape Town.  

"It's always been the case for Ireland to make history and beat South Africa the first time there."

Wood went on to explain just how gruelling the Test series can be.

"I think it's necessary for a shift in style because you're preparing to play against one of the most physical sides in the history of the game. 

"I've played down their often enough to know it's not pretty. CJ Stander will be in for some extra love having moved from South Africa up to Ireland. I thought he was phenomenal in the Six Nations for a guy who was playing from a standing start and for a guy not just playing international rugby, but Six Nations rugby which can be incredibly intense."