Ireland intend to give veteran captain Johnny Sexton as many minutes as he can manage during the Rugby World Cup.
Fly-half Sexton returned from an absence of almost six months due to injury and suspension to lead his country to a crushing 82-8 victory over Romania in their Pool B opener in Bordeaux.
Tougher tests await the world’s top-ranked nation as next weekend’s clash against Tonga in Nantes is followed by pivotal Paris appointments with South Africa and Scotland.
Ireland face a balancing act of wanting the 38-year-old on the pitch as much as possible while ensuring he is in peak condition for the critical moments.
Defence coach Simon Easterby said: “Johnny’s not got potentially many more times wearing the green jersey and – those of you who know him – he wants to play every minute that he can.
“That will be a conversation between him and Faz (head coach Andy Farrell) and making sure that he and Faz are happy with the discussions and how they want to map out the next couple of weeks.
“But certainly from our end, he’s the captain, he’s the talisman in the squad and the more minutes he can play the better.”
Sexton scored two tries as part of a 24-point haul on Saturday afternoon to surpass Ronan O’Gara as Ireland’s leading World Cup points scorer.
The oldest international in Ireland’s history, who will retire after the tournament, was replaced by Jack Crowley in the 65th minute to a standing ovation.
“I think it’s great that he got that many minutes,” said Easterby.
“He looked good, he looked fresh, he was energetic and I guess because of his age and his experience, he doesn’t tend to need a huge amount of rugby to get himself back into the swing of things.
“Training throughout the pre-season has helped that and has given him plenty of opportunities to play the game, as it were, as opposed to just training and running and doing fitness.
“It is different in a game and it’s different against opposition that we don’t know what they’re going to do all the time, that makes it a little bit more unpredictable.
“But certainly if Johnny is fit and available then it’s great for us and it means that he can keep on playing.”
Ireland fielded 10 World Cup newcomers against Romania, with rookie lock Joe McCarthy claiming one of their 12 tries.
“It is great to have so many debutants,” said Easterby. “They all produced some brilliant rugby at times.
“From that perspective, it’s more about us going week to week and having the right blend, the right dynamic in the side.
“Tonga will be a very different proposition to what we faced (on Saturday).”