JOE SCHMIDT HAS named his squad to face England on Saturday in the final clash of the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium [KO 5pm].
Check out the team and bench in full here.
Kearney injured and Toner dropped
It had looked like Joe Schmidt was going to back all of his most trusted lieutenants again, but instead he has opted to drop one of the players who has been close to ever-present when fit.
Devin Toner has been a go-to man for Schmidt, running the lineout since the retirement of Paul O’Connell, but with that area struggling in this championship, Schmidt has dropped him to the bench this weekend.
The towering lock has been replaced by Iain Henderson, who made an impact off the bench last weekend in Cardiff.
It will leave Donnacha Ryan tasked with calling the Irish lineout, which England will be heavily targeting.
Rob Kearney, who started the last four games of this championship, misses out with a knee injury, meaning Jared Payne makes his eagerly-anticipated return at fullback, where he excelled on the tour of South Africa last June.
Marmion in for Murray
Conor Murray watched training at Carton House today, still suffering with the shoulder injury he sustained last weekend in Cardiff, meaning Kieran Marmion starts for Ireland this weekend.
Luke McGrath of Leinster is promoted onto the Ireland bench.
Losing a player of Murray’s quality is an obvious blow for Ireland ahead of the meeting with England, although Connacht man Marmion did impress off the bench against Wales last time out.
This will be just Marmion’s second start for Ireland and what an occasion it is for him. His kicking game is not as good as Murray’s, but the 25-year-old has excellent passing and sniping qualities.
It’s to be hoped that Schmidt backs Marmion to use that sniping game against England’s fringe defence, while McGrath will hope to win his second Ireland cap off the bench.
POM remains on the bench
Even while dropping Ireland’s lineout leader, Schmidt has resisted the temptation to start Peter O’Mahony – who Paul O’Connell has called the best back row jumper in Europe – and gone with an unchanged back row.
CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip are given another opportunity to lead Ireland, and Schmidt needs them to step up to the mark.
The Irish back row trio is world-class on paper, but O’Brien and Heaslip would have been frustrated with giving up possession cheaply on two occasions each last weekend in Cardiff, even if they did get through mountains of work in a physical encounter.
O’Mahony will surely be raging with aggression to get off the bench against the English this weekend, having endured a frustrating championship as a replacement.
Subscribe to The42 Rugby Show podcast here: