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Ringrose's return, Toner over Henderson and more Ireland team talking points

Plus, Jordi Murphy and Jordan Larmour are reinstated to the bench.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS revealed his hand for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Scotland in Dublin. The Ireland head coach has made two changes to his starting XV, and below we take a closer look at his selections. 

Ringrose’s return

Garry Ringrose Ringrose starts for Ireland for the first time since June. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Once Garry Ringrose came through this morning’s final session unscathed, he was always expected to replace the injured, and luckless, Chris Farrell in Ireland’s midfield.

The Leinster centre comes straight back into Schmidt’s XV following the loss of Robbie Henshaw and Farrell earlier in the championship and it’s a measure of Ireland’s squad depth that the Kiwi can call upon a player of Ringrose’s calibre at this juncture.

Ringrose, who played every minute of last year’s Six Nations, links up with Bundee Aki for the first time in what is the 25th different midfield partnership during Schmidt’s time in charge.

While the loss of Farrell strips Ireland of real physicality in the centre, Ringrose will bring a different dimension to Ireland’s attack with his darting acceleration, quick feet and ability to get around the outside an exciting prospect in tandem with the explosive Aki.

The only concern is that the 23-year-old has played just six games for Leinster this season, with shoulder and ankle injuries denying him a real opportunity to kick on from last year when he started nine straight games for Ireland.

His only game time since the start of January was a run out against the Southern Kings a fortnight ago, but having spent two weeks in camp ahead of Scotland, the expectation is that Ringrose will have built up his match fitness and sharpness sufficiently.

Toner over Henderson

Ireland’s Devin Toner and Iain Henderson Toner wins his 57th cap against Scotland. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Schmidt will shed further light on his second row selection at his press conference later this afternoon but his decision to go for Devin Toner ahead of the fit-again Iain Henderson is the main talking point.

Henderson, who missed the round three over Wales with a hamstring injury, has to settle for a place on the bench as Schmidt opts to maintain the pairing of Toner and James Ryan from last time out.

It was expected that Henderson would be reinstated after shaking off the problem which forced him off at half-time of the Italy match but Toner’s added lineout prowess may have been a factor following Scotland’s selection of Grant Gilchrist and the returning Jonny Gray.

Henderson, too, may still be slightly off the pace and will arguably be of greater impact coming off the bench later in the game.

Bench options

Jordan Larmour Larmour has been preferred to Fergus McFadden on the bench. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The knock-on effect of Tadhg Furlong’s welcome return sees Andrew Porter — immense when called upon during this campaign so far — dropping down to the bench, while the other areas of contention, in the back row and utility back positions, sees Schmidt prefer Jordi Murphy and Jordan Jordan to Jack Conan and Fergus McFadden.

Porter can consider himself unfortunate to drop out of the team after his performances against Wales but Furlong’s availability is a major fillip for Ireland, and, as we’ve seen previously, his Leinster team-mate can provide a bring power and physicality off the bench at a later stage.

With  Conan released to play for Leinster against Scarlets on Friday night, arguably paying for his over-eagerness in defence against Wales, Murphy is named as the replacement back rower.

Ulster-bound Murphy provides greater versatility and is in line to win his first cap since Fiji in November should he come off the bench, while Schmidt has interestingly gone for the x-factor of Larmour over McFadden as the utility back replacement.

Larmour made his senior international debut against Italy and has been back and forth between Carton House and Leinster over the last few weeks, but has clearly impressed Schmidt again to earn the number 23 jersey for Saturday’s clash at the Aviva Stadium.

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