Ireland have a significant match this week. A mid-Six Nations game against Italy, coming off a gap week with another one to follow, this tie is a minor hurdle and major opportunity for Joe Schmidt.
A costly issue in the 2015 World Cup was Ireland's squad depth. Jordi Murphy, Chris Henry and Iain Henderson did not have enough exposure at that level. With that in mind, there are several players who are clearly ear-marked as second-choice in their position who need game-time this Sunday.
Whether Joe Schmidt sees it the same way remains to be seen. The Irish head coach could instead opt to use this game as an opportunity to grant Conor Murray a welcomed chance to return to form or allow Rob Kearney to kick on having just returned from injury. But ultimately, a successful World Cup squad will have a host of players with 25+ caps and right now important squad players fall considerably short.
Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Chris Farrell and Jordan Larmour all currently have 10 caps or less. An away trip to an improving Italy is exactly the sort of experience needed. On top of that, continuing with key combinations like an unchanged centre partnership or back-row ensure a balance between continuity and experimentation in equal measure.
In the case of a full-back, there is still no clear second choice to Rob Kearney. Robbie Henshaw seems a viable option but needs game time to develop there.
1- Dave Kilcoyne 2- Sean Cronin 3- Tadhg Furlong 4-Tadhg Beirne 5- James Ryan 6- Peter O'Mahony 7-Sean O'Brien 8- Jack Conan
15- Robbie Henshaw 14- Andrew Conway 13- Chris Farrell 12- Bundee Aki 11-Jordan Larmour 10- Joey Carbery 9- John Cooney
16- Niall Scannell 17- Jack McGrath 18- John Ryan 19- Ultan Dillane 20- Jordi Murphy 21- Caolin Blade 22- Jack Carty 23- Keith Earls
It's a similar model to the Welsh one, who made ten changes before playing Italy in the last round.
A desired and a predicted one are two very different things and Schmidt has shown a tendency towards conservatism over experimentation. This is an understandable approach. After all, there is a reasoned desired teams are confined to sportswriting and actual teams are the remit of the best coach in the world.
We discussed the pros and cons of a much-changed team and whether Rob Kearney and Johnny Sexton should start on this week's World in Union podcast, a weekly show getting the outside perspective on Irish rugby and the game in general.
You can hear that discussion here: