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Schmidt without injured quartet but backs O'Mahony to deliver in seven shirt

The Ireland head coach is missing Garry Ringrose, Dan Leavy, Andrew Conway and Iain Henderson.

Murray Kinsella reports from Sydney

THE SELECTION PICTURE this week was somewhat simplified for Joe Schmidt when it became clear that Garry Ringrose, Dan Leavy, Andrew Conway and Iain Henderson would miss the final Test against the Wallabies through injury.

Ringrose picked up a foot issue in last weekend’s second Test, while Leavy suffered a sternum injury in the same game and Conway’s hip pointer was damaged “in the action of him scoring a try,” as Schmidt put it.

Peter O'Mahony O'Mahony starts at openside. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Henderson, meanwhile, “hasn’t recovered sufficiently from the knock on the knee” that kept him out last weekend’s win in Melbourne.

Losing four possible starters was a blow for Schmidt and Ringrose’s creativity will be missed, but this remains a strong Irish team when the injury absences are taken into account – the head coach making five personnel and four positional changes.

The Grand Slam-winning back three of Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney are reunited, having started the first Test in Australia together too, while Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki have vast experience as a centre combination.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton’s class is well known, while the second row pairing of Devin Toner and James Ryan excelled last weekend in Ireland’s victory over the Wallabies in Melbourne.

Rotating Jack McGrath into the team at loosehead in place of Cian Healy is hardly a risk given McGrath’s proven quality over 49 Test caps.

The hooker selection is interesting, with Sean Cronin coming in from the cold to be named as Ireland’s third starter in the position over the course of the three games Down Under.

“We’d love to see him do really well in the set-pieces,” said Schmidt when asked what he expects to see from Cronin.

“We obviously had Niall Scannell doing really well last week and Rob Herring has been super, I thought his performance off the bench last week was really good.

Sean Cronin Cronin comes in at hooker. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The other thing from Sean is that dynamic ball-carry, that dynamic linespeed he can bring and he’s an incredibly combative character, so we’re looking forward to seeing all those elements really.”

The back row is of intrigue too, with Jack Conan given a chance at number eight for what will be the biggest start of his Test career.

Conan’s inclusion sees CJ Stander shift to blindside flanker, while Peter O’Mahony will make his first start for Ireland at openside on what will be the occasion of his 50th cap.

“I thought Peter did really well over the ball last week, it’s something that he’s very capable of doing,” said Schmidt of picking O’Mahony in the number seven shirt.

“It maintains the lineout presence that he offers, the leadership that he’s brought to the team through this series.

“With Dan Leavy unavailable, it was probably just an opportunity for Jack Conan to get in at number eight. Once he was in at number eight, and trying to maintain a bit of continuity through the spine of the team, CJ Stander shifted to six and Peter to seven.

“Having said that, we felt that Jordi Murphy came off the bench really well last week. He played the week before, so his game volume is quite high and we decided… well there were a number of things to balance really.

“We were waiting to see how Dan came through the week, he’s had very little time on tour out on the pitch and unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.”

Joe Schmidt Schmidt named his team in Sydney today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt said that Ireland’s analysis had shown that Wallabies breakdown menaces David Pocock and Michael Hooper “had about 34 bites at the ball in the ruck” in last weekend’s second Test, and the tourists expect another ferocious battle.

“That’s an incredibly high volume and we know they’re going to be every bit as threatening in the ruck again.”

While the selection of Nick Phipps in place of the injured Will Genia was expected, the Wallabies have also brought Lukhan Tui into their back row in place of Caleb Timu.

Tui was a replacement in the first two Tests and now gets a chance to impress from that start, with David Pocock moving into the number eight short.

“I thought Tui did well when he came on,” said Schmidt. “He gives them a little bit more in the lineout if he’s playing in the loose or if he is a lock, I thought he came on and there was one time where Tadhg Furlong carried and I thought Tui hit him very, very hard – it’s hard to slow the Wexford farmer down but he fair stopped him.”

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Murray Kinsella

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