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Farrell feels Henderson 'better suited' to All Blacks as Beirne benched

Jamison Gibson-Park retains his spot at scrum-half after impressing against Japan.

Henderson starts in the second row for Ireland.
Henderson starts in the second row for Ireland.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IT WAS NEVER likely that Andy Farrell would make many changes to his Ireland team after last weekend’s impressive win over Japan and in the end, there is only one alteration to the starting XV.

Iain Henderson comes into the second row in place of Tadhg Beirne for Saturday’s meeting with the All Blacks, with the Ulsterman having impressed off the bench against the Japanese.

Ireland boss Farrell was keen to highlight the fact that Beirne had played well in the Japan game but his feeling is that Henderson’s qualities are better suited to Saturday’s fixture against the Kiwis.

“We thought last week that Tadhg was better suited to the Japan game and we feel that at the start of this game, Iain is better suited to start this game,” said Farrell after naming his team.

“100% Tadhg played really well last week, he will come on in whatever position it is and finish the game really well for us.”

Farrell is likely to have weighed up a number of other tight selection calls this week, including whether or not to bring Keith Earls back in on the wing, but Andrew Conway and James Lowe are rewarded for their excellent displays last time out.

Jamison Gibson-Park also retains the number nine shirt after impressing against Japan, with Conor Murray on the bench again.

“We thought Jamison played really well and deserves another shot at starting,” said Farrell.

“As I said last week, he’s more comfortable in his own skin at this level now and his maturity and leadership has gone through the roof at this level.

“I thought he had an excellent game last week, so he gets a chance again.”

Overall, Farrell believes this Ireland selection will allow his players to continue with some of the momentum they built up against Japan.

johnny-sexton-keith-earls-and-andy-farrell Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls with Andy Farrell. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Selection is a big part of the week for us as coaches obviously and we all know the start of our season and how that’s been,” said Farrell.

“We all know the limited time that we’ve had together so the cohesiveness of our group is absolutely everything at the weekend. We were pretty cohesive last week against Japan so we roll on with a pretty similar side.”

The All Blacks have named a very strong side to face Ireland, with head coach Ian Foster opting for Beauden Barrett at out-half ahead of Richie Mo’unga.

Sam Whitelock captains the team from the second row, where he lines up alongside the equally influential Brodie Retallick.

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“It’s full-bore, isn’t it?” said Farrell of the New Zealand selection.

“It’s very experienced, a similar side that we came up against in the World Cup, certainly in the front five. They’ve got threats all over the field and these are the types of games we want to play in.

“We’re coming up against the best and we’re coming up against a very strong starting 15 and strong squad in New Zealand.”

Farrell said the anticipation within his squad for Saturday’s game is very high.

“We’re unbelievably fortunate to get the opportunity to play them four times this year. At the end of this year, we go on a tour that’s going to test us to the hilt.

“We’ll learn a lot about ourselves this weekend and through this season. We’ll certainly learn a lot about ourselves on the tour to New Zealand because that will be the ultimate tour really.

“It’s a privilege to play against the best, we should embrace that, work towards it, and keep pushing ourselves.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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