"We're keeping an eye on those guys" - Joe Schmidt talks Ringrose, O'Donoghue and co's prospects

Ireland head coach chats to Off The Ball's Cian Murtagh about fresh blood who could break through in the future

Joe Schmidt, Ireland, Six Nations

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt ©INPHO/James Crombie

A Six Nations defence provides an immediate challenge for Ireland, but Joe Schmidt has also identified young players who he and his staff will be a keeping an eye on with a view beyond the current tournament.

Off The Ball's Cian Murtagh was at today's Six Nations launch in London and asked the Ireland head coach about the balance between continuity and blooding new talent.

"For us, we have to have an eye for the future and we are certainly watching a couple of young players, a couple that I probably name publicly," he told Cian.

"There's a young man, Jack O'Donoghue, who's playing in Munster, who's really acquitted himself well first season in the top level and he's showing fantastic resilience as well. Garry Ringrose at Leinster has acquitted himself really well, so of course we're keeping an eye on those guys. I've chatted to both of them. Josh van der Flier, who's come in from Leinster, another young guy who wouldn't have been seen on the international scene. There's those sort of guys and Ultan Dillane, who's another guy who's an exciting prospect for us. Those guys, we're building them for the future."

Munster's Jack O'Donoghue ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Schmidt highlighted Robbie Henshaw's development from raw talent to international fixture as an example to follow. 

"One of the things we did two years ago, Robbie Henshaw came in and spent a whole Six Nations following Brian O'Driscoll and the following Six Nations, he was in a lot of those tournament teams. We're hoping that we can continue to develop players because we've got to be keeping an eye on the future," he said.

With five new caps, Schmidt admitted that it would be "interesting to see how well we can gel together" and that overcoming injuries to the likes of Iain Henderson, Mike Ross and Cian Healy was a "huge challenge" to take on. 

The New Zealander also assessed the strengths of the opposition, particularly detailing the cases of first challengers Wales and France.