Strength in depth is really only relevant to the All Blacks (of New Zealand).
They are the sole rugby nation that can dig three or four players deep in most positions and keep unearthing marvellous talent. Strip Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty from their midfield in the middle of a Lions series and see how they struggled. South Africa had some strength in depth until their Springboks began migrating north. It’s just that their strength – and I’m predating this assertion to March 2017 – is beatable with the right blend of Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Furlong, Johnny Sexton et al.
Schmidt will return to the well-oiled machine that dismantled South Africa because that’s the core we are building to go where no Irish team has gone before (week seven at the World Cup).
Because it’s Argentina week, let’s remember the nightmare scenario.
Eddie Jones has been saying from day one as England coach that they don’t possess truly world-class players (Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell have attained this status). The second- or third-best scrumhalf or outhalf in New Zealand can command a lucrative salary in the Top 14 (see Aaron Cruden, to Montpellier, and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, soon to be at La Rochelle).
But they do possess more above-average internationals than any other team. Hansen is mining for strength in depth, so that will have changed when they get to Twickenham in November 2018. Until this summer, their sixth- or seventh-best inside-centre could move to Galway and within three years command a tasty quasi-national IRFU contract.
But Dev Toner, Henderson, a filled-out version of James Ryan and Kleyn should suffice.
Gibson-Park and Kleyn will go to Japan 2019 as Ireland players.Until that happens, Ross Byrne has a chance to ruin best-laid plans by accelerating his understated yet impressive development. Did anyone put their hand up for selection this weekend?These are good problems, fitting for the All Blacks of Europe. Jack Conan’s probably in the discussion, with Rhys Ruddock for the bench. James Ryan and Henderson would provide a glimpse into the long-term secondrow partnership.As cover for Furlong, Porter has a long way to go but the potential is there.Ireland can’t replace Murray or Sexton but the cover will be different. The emotional outpouring on the pitch after we beat France to top the pool will probably never happen again in our lifetime.