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Three Things Joe Schmidt Thinks Ian Keatley Brings To The Number 10 Shirt

Three Things Joe Schmidt Thinks Ian Keatley Brings To The Number 10 Shirt
By PJ Browne
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Since early December we've known that Johnny Sexton would not be available for Ireland's opening Six Nations fixture against Italy. The expectation was that Ian Madigan would play out half for the trip to Rome.

Joe Schmidt however has chosen Ian Keatley to step into the Sexton-shaped breach.

Quoted by the Irish Independent, the Kiwi said that the Munster out half brings a number of things to the number ten shirt.


Schmidt believes that his kicking game is solid, something that will be key if Ireland are to control territory against Italy.

His kicking game has been really sound.

I thought he got really unlucky in a couple of recent games where he found the really good space in the corner and the ball, in one game against Saracens drifted over the dead ball line where it should have been kicking dead on and it would have been a five-metre lineout for Saracens.

So he's finding the right spaces and maybe hasn't had massive luck there.

Citing moments like that late winning drop goal against Sale, the Ireland coach says that the Munster man's clutch kicking was a factor in naming him in the starting XV.

That's given us a degree of confidence in him that he can do that for us.

His (kicking) percentages since Christmas are very strong. Based on that we have confidence that he will kick well.

He is controlling games better, he's nailing those (clutch kicks) and allowing the team that he's playing for to get their nose in front at the right time or to get the right field position at the right time.

It's not all about the boot though. Schmidt also had praise for Keatley's ability with ball in hand.

He's got a very capable passing game and I think his running game - the first time I saw Ian Keatley play I think he was playing 12 or 13 for Connacht and the first thing he did was slice straight through our Leinster defence at the RDS.

Eoin O'Malley thankfully dragged him short of the line. I do think he's got a running game that can threaten as well.

Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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