This weekend’s clash with Wales represents a final chance for players to stake a claim for a place in Ireland’s World Cup squad according to coach Joe Schmidt.
The 2018 Grand Slam champions host the team who succeeded them in March, and will be looking to bounce back from the heavy defeat to England at Twickenham.
That was Ireland’s second World Cup warm-up match, and this weekend’s trip to Cardiff will be the last game before Schmidt and his coaches decide on the final 31 for Japan.
Those decisions will be taken on Sunday, with Schmidt also revealing that there will be a very different look to the team compared to the side that went down 57-15 in London.
“There will be a number of changes this weekend,” said Schmidt. “I know a lot of people will anticipate that being the case because we are in a building phase, a clarification phase for selection.
“Once this weekend is over, effectively selections are done.
“Sunday will be a day of sitting down and trying to make sure we get the selection as well-balanced as we can make it to get the right people to then springboard into the final game against Wales and then into the World Cup.”
While Schmidt admitted the display in England was below what he expects of his side, he insists there were some positives to be taken from the game.
And with every side in a different stage of their preparation for the World Cup in Japan, he is hoping to see an improvement from his team against a Wales side that is now ranked number one in the world.
He said: “It’s an unacceptable result for us, it’s a performance beneath where we’d like and beneath where we need to be.
“The whole group are very conscious that we have a short period of time to accelerate what is part of a progression.
“We looked flat, we looked slow, we were inaccurate and we didn’t adjust and probably didn’t take some of the easier options that presented themselves.
“But to throw everything out would be a mistake, there were a couple of aspects of play that weren’t too bad. I felt that we found a bit of space in behind them a few times. There were a couple of glimpses of some pretty good structure and getting over the advantage line and some pretty good defence a few times when we forced them into kicking. We didn’t do that nearly often enough.
“I’m determined to stay realistic about where we are compared to our opponents last weekend. But where we have to be this weekend is a different story and where we have to be the weekend after is another different story. We need to see how much more competitive we can be in the space of a week.”