Ireland have delayed the final selection for their opening autumn international against Samoa to give influential lock Paul O’Connell every chance to prove his fitness.
Forwards coach John Plumtree revealed the Irish have held off confirming their squad internally for Saturday’s Aviva Stadium clash.
Head coach Joe Schmidt had been hoping to have already named Saturday’s line-up to his players, but forwards coach Plumtree has now admitted the Ireland coaches will keep monitoring O’Connell’s continued progress past his calf muscle problem.
Brian O’Driscoll came through Tuesday’s full training unscathed, handing a real boost to new boss Schmidt, with flanker Sean O’Brien sharpening up too.
Should he be passed fit, O’Connell will have a strong claim to the Ireland captaincy, due to be confirmed when Schmidt announces the Samoa match squad on Thursday.
Plumtree remains unsure whether 34-year-old O’Connell could last the full course against Samoa, but the indications are he will be involved.
“Whether he can go 80 or not, I’m not sure. We’ll think about it and see what we are doing.
“He’s our most experienced lock. He’s been the glue in that pack for a fair while.
“He’s important; he’s still keen, still enthusiastic and still loves playing for Ireland, so he’s important.”
Plumtree unwittingly found himself on a reconnaissance mission at Blackrock College this week while on the school run.
The ex-Wellington Lions coach said he did not need to watch a Samoa training session to know what Ireland have in store for them this weekend.
“They were training at my son’s school so when I was going down to pick him up I was watching their training for a bit,” he said.
“I wasn’t spying on them! I didn’t know it was going to happen. But they were well-organised, training was good and their work ethic was strong.”
Plumtree said that in the past Samoa had relied on individuals, but were now playing as a team.
“They have really stepped up and I guess it is really because of the individuals they have playing around the world now, being exposed to different teams and cultures,” he said.
“They are a real threat now because they are not only dangerous because they are individually good – they play as a team.”