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Dublin: 4°C Friday 5 March 2021

Henshaw hammer blow and more talking points from Ireland's XV to face Argentina

Adam Byrne has had to work hard for this opportunity.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Ireland are ready for their final November Test of this international window. Here’s the team Joe Schmidt has named to face Argentina on Saturday with some of our immediate thoughts on the selection below.

Henshaw hammer blow

Just when it felt like Joe Schmidt was ready and able to plan his preferred starting XV to face Argentina from a long way out, a hamstring injury – though not a serious one, Schmidt insists — has taken one of the most important back-line leaders out of contention.

Robbie Henshaw Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Robbie Henshaw alongside Bundee Aki is a midfield partnership that is short on international minutes together only. Their shared Connacht experience made them a natural fit. Without Henshaw, Chris Farrell comes in to join Aki in what promises to be a physical and highly-skilled centre partnership.

But at this level, experience and familiarity with your unit partner is critical. So the two one-cappers will have to work hard off and on the field to forge that link from Jonathan Sexton to an inexperienced set of wingers.

Share the load

Planning for the future – namely two years into the future – has been a constant thread running through this November series for Ireland. And while this starting XV sees a return of some of Joe Schmidt’s most tried and trusted combinations, he has continued with a touch of experimentation.

Aside from the enforced centre change-up, there are clear efforts from Schmidt to build match minutes in some members of his squad.

James Ryan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

James Ryan, after three runs off the bench, gets a first Test start and takes a third straight start away from Devin Toner. James Tracy has taken the back-up hooker berth. So despite some excellent form Rob Herring will ride the pine for Ulster tomorrow.

Luke McGrath’s inclusion in the 23 is certainly not unmerited given his ability to close out matches as a replacement, but his presence is another chance to add to his experience after some quality investment in Kieran Marmion over the summer and the past two weeks.

Byrne up

Form is temporary, and from the very beginning there was no doubting that Adam Byrne oozed class.

Joe Schmidt made him Leinster’s youngest ever player when he gave him a debut provincial cap at 18, but Byrne has had multiple doses of harsh reality since that dream rise through the ranks.

Two broken legs forced him to wait two years for a second Leinster cap and a spate of hamstring injuries kept him in the shadows rather than in the bright spotlights of the RDS. He has had to work exceptionally hard off the field to get back to his best.

Adam Byrne Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

In January 2016, he was given a first start for his native province and he has barely looked back since.

Byrne’s speed and elusive running are undeniable, but this season he has also proven himself a terrific aerial competitor — a must for a back three in a Schmidt team.

Fresh eyes aiming at Argentina

As much as we’d like to drum up the arrival the Pumas as a grudge match two years on from the World Cup quarter-final, Ireland’s players have spent the week insisting that a new crop of players involved negate the concept of this being a revenge mission.

With Robbie Henshaw injured and Devin Toner left on the bench, there are only five players in Ireland’s starting XV this weekend who also started in that injury-hit line-up in Cardiff.

Jamie Heaslip dejected after the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In the back-line, only Conor Murray and Rob Kearney bridge the two-year gap with the 2015′s centres out with hamstring injuries, Ian Madigan in England and Tommy Bowe and Dave Kearney out of favour to varying degrees.

It’s a whole new ball game.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

Hamstrung Henshaw misses out on Argentina clash as Adam Byrne earns debut

‘I keep quite calm, I need to’: Devin Toner rises above it all

Marty Moore is coming home as Ulster announce prop’s signing

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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