Dan Leavy will sit out the big November game due to injury with Josh van der Flier slotting in to his position. Jordi Murphy joins the bench.
When Josh got injured half-way through last season, it looked like both Leinster and Ireland would struggle, especially since Sean O’Brien was struggling to return to full fitness.
Into the gap came Leavy, taking advantage of the long injury list and making the position his own. The conveyor belt of talent in back row positions was working.
Almost a year on and now Josh will have his chance to earn the jersey back, but what a game to have to do it in, up against the World Champions and best ranked team.
Neither of Saturday nights opponents looked like themselves last weekend. The weather in Twickenham may have had something to do with the poor New Zealand performance. Ireland have less excuses. This week should see perfect conditions at the Aviva, dry and not too cold. No more excuses.
Do we have a chance? As long as there are fifteen against fifteen there is always a chance. But it feels like a slim one.
The team that makes the least mistakes tomorrow should win. New Zealand dropped the ball more in the game against England last week than I believed possible. We made a fair number of errors ourselves. Whoever can clean up best will win.
|Cian Healy||1||Karl Tu’inukuafe|
|Rory Best (captain)||2||Codie Taylor|
|Tadhg Furlong||3||Owen Franks|
|Devin Toner||4||Sam Whitelock|
|James Ryan||5||Brodie Retallick|
|Peter O’Mahony||6||Liam Squire|
|Josh van der Flier||7||Ardie Savea|
|CJ Stander||8||Kieran Read (captain)|
|Kieran Marmion||9||Aaron Smith|
|Johnny Sexton||10||Beauden Barrett|
|Jacob Stockdale||11||Rieko Ioane|
|Bundee Aki||12||Ryan Crotty|
|Garry Ringrose||13||Jack Goodhue|
|Keith Earls||14||Ben Smith|
|Rob Kearney||15||Damian McKenzie|
|Sean Cronin||16||Dane Coles|
|Jack McGrath||17||Ofa Tuungafasi|
|Andrew Porter||18||Nepo Laulala|
|Iain Henderson||19||Scott Barrett|
|Jordi Murphy||20||Matt Todd|
|Luke McGrath||21||TJ Perenara|
|Joey Carbery||22||Richie Mo’unga|
|Jordan Larmour||23||Anton Lienert-Brown|
Expect Ireland to play keep ball when they can, hoping to break the line every few carries. They will open both halves with intensity and try to unsettle the All Blacks. The accuracy of their actions will determine how successful they are.
Henshaw is out with injury but we get back Garry Ringrose, with Bundee Aki retaining the inside centre jersey. Not too shabby a reaplacement.
Rob Kearney returns to full back, giving a more experienced feel to the back three. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of his battle with Jordan Larmour to be the number one choice. The pressure these two put on each and on the others vying for the position should get top performances over the next year.
I’m a little surprise to see Marmion selected ahead of Luke McGrath, but that might be Leinster bias. At some point Schmidt will introduce Luke from the bench and he will have his opportunity.
Joey Carberry is less likely to see game time, I fear. While Ireland might get onto the scoreboard first, even building up a lead, I can’t see Joe taking Sexton or Kearney off until the game is almost over. But he’s a useful replacement to have on stand-by.
Iain Henderson drops to the bench, but this was expected. Last week was all about getting the second row game time in green. He is sure to feature at some point covering both the second and back rows.
It’s going to be all out warfare at the ruck. O’Mahony was brilliant last week. I’m expecting something good from Josh and CJ.
They are going to score tries. It’s inevitable really with players like Ioane, Barret and Aaron Smith. All we can do is to try to outscore them.
Last week we had a mixed day with the set piece. Our scrum dominated and all our tries came from that area. Don’t expect this to happen against the best team in the world.
The line out, however, was a mixed bag. Toner returns to offer that safe throw whenever we need to secure ball. If we can execute well here, it gives us a chance. Best and Cronin have to be at their best tomorrow. We will be relying on their dart throwing and mistakes will be punished. There is little more demoralising than losing a line out close to opposition line, allowing them to clear the ball.
The battle of the day is between Sexton and Barret. If only Conor Murray were fit, it would be a glorious battle of the half backs. I’m less confident of Marmion being able to give Sexton the performance he needs. I hope I have to eat my words.
To me Sexton has the advantage, with his superior ability with kicking of the ball from hand and tee, but Barret’s abilities with ball in hand are mouth watering. He was the catalyst against England last week, sparking their comeback from fifteen points to nil behind to winning the game. Sexton and Aki have defensive work to do to keep him in check.
Mistakes will decide tomorrow, which includes knock-ons, miss-kicks, set piece errors, missed tackles and giving away penalties.