With competition for places hotting up as preparations enter the warm-up match stage, head coach Joe Schmidt has started the process of narrowing his squad ahead of his final 31-man selection, which must be named by 31 August.
We’re not here just to cut players and get rid of them though. We’ll see how that is and when we feel we’re in a really good position guys will feed back to their clubs.
With six players batting for selection in the midfield, Leinster centre Reid’s departure still leaves a number of options for the Irish coaching team to ponder in their final warm-up matches against Scotland and Wales in the coming weeks.
But the departure of hooker Herring leaves his Ulster team-mate Rory Best and Leinster duo Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss as shoo-ins to make the final cut if they stay clear of injuries.
“Two guys have gone back to their provinces this week and over the next while it’ll be an ongoing process,” said assistant coach Richie Murphy.
“Rob Herring has gone back to Ulster and Noel Reid has gone back to Leinster.
“We’re not here just to cut players and get rid of them though. We’ll see how that is and when we feel we’re in a really good position guys will feed back to their clubs.”
Ireland welcome Scotland to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, buoyed by an emphatic win over Wales in Cardiff last weekend and moving up to second in the World Rugby rankings.
There is good news on the injury front too with Murphy confirming that tighthead prop Marty Moore and winger Luke Fitzgerald are both available for selection after recovering from shoulder injuries.
But Cian Healy – Ireland’s first-choice loosehead prop – is set for more time on the sidelines as he looks to overcome a neck problem.
“Guys are looking good; Marty is back in full contact and he looks fine,” Murphy added.
“Luke Fitzgerald is back in full contact and looks really good. Most of the squad now are back on their feet and available for selection.
“There’s no real update on Cian Healy; he’s progressing well.
“He’s not doing full contact, but he’s doing more or less the whole session yesterday and today. He’s progressing reasonably well.”
As Schmidt and his coaching team explore their options for next month’s showpiece tournament, Ireland are expected to name another experimental team for this weekend with fringe players given a chance to stake a claim for the final squad with the bulk of star names held back for the final encounters against Wales later this month and England at the start of September.
Ireland wrapped up their RBS Six Nations title defence back in March with a thumping 40-10 win over Scotland at BT Murrayfield and the men in green go into the game as firm favourites against the Dark Blues with Vern Cotter giving his fringe players a go in their first of four matches in as many weeks.
Murphy said: “There will be quite a few changes. The guys at the weekend did reasonably well.
“It’s another opportunity to get more guys onto the pitch over these first two games, so I think you would expect quite a few changes and some guys who haven’t had game time will be coming back in.”
Murphy also confirmed that Ireland will not call up a replacement for Munster back-row forward Tommy O’Donnell, who was ruled out of the tournament with a dislocated hip against Wales.
“There’s probably no need in that position,” he said.
“Obviously it’s one of those positions that we have a lot of really talented players, so it does open up opportunities for other guys.
“I don’t think we need to look at the squad at the moment.
“I haven’t actually been talking to Tommy myself, but it’s a massive blow.
“He had a great performance at the weekend and definitely was right up there fighting for a place in the squad.
“For anyone at this stage, after putting in a really gruelling five weeks of training, it’s tough for him to miss out.”
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