Joe Schmidt admits Ireland have few chances to experiment ahead of World Cup
Ireland only have five realistic chances to blood new players ahead of the Rugby World Cup, according to Joe Schmidt.
Last Updated: 19/03/14 11:36am
The Six Nations champions have 10 Test matches before the traditional summer World Cup warm-ups, and the tournament proper starting in September 2015.
Schmidt believes the Six Nations is no time to experiment, which leaves him with limited opportunities to assess new talent.
"There are 10 Tests to go ultimately towards the World Cup, five of those are the finals we play week to week in the Six Nations," said Schmidt.
"For us personally the Six Nations is massive, because it happens every year and that's the one tournament you've got to be repeatedly good at.
"The World Cup is once every four years. It's got to be kept in mind because it's the peak, but those five Six Nations Tests, it's probably the amount of pressure for those, it's hard to go outside of the players who are in form and to keep continuity because it's played over seven weeks.
"So you don't even get chance to catch breath. I thought that we would have been able to give a little more opportunity without losing continuity during the Six Nations.
"If we hadn't played people against Italy they would have had two full weeks off, and that wouldn't have been the best preparation for the deciding game against France."
The Kiwi coach said there is still time for players to force their way into the picture ahead of the World Cup.
"I don't think the circle is as tight as people probably perceive it to be," he added.
"We would have discussed 55 to 60 names, now you can't select that many but they are certainly part of discussions.
"We are very open-minded, and we want there to be real competition for places, and we want to be able to keep an open mind in so far as the form of some of those younger players.
"I don't think the Argentina tour is the only time to try things, we will have the Guinness Series that follows it too.
"They are the five Test matches that really give us an opportunity to get together a squad to try to defend the Six Nations now we're in that position."
Former players and outside commentators have questioned whether Schmidt's Ireland selections have weighed too heavily on his former club Leinster.
He disagrees: "For me I select Irish players: if people want to differentiate, if people want to divide that provincially, that's their prerogative," said Schmidt.
"But as a group we're just trying to select the Irish national team. If people are going to be distracted by provincial loyalties, then that's certainly something that's not happening within the group.
"There's been a super unity within the group, and it's probably always disappointing to get criticised.
"I can totally understand the perception, but what I could guarantee is that we have all the stats, we watch all the games, and we try to do as much homework as we possibly can."