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Murphy gets nod at 6, Healy retained and more Ireland XV talking points

Jamie Heaslip and the other leaders must stand up, while Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls are fit.

Murray Kinsella reports from Cardiff

JOE SCHMIDT HAS named his matchday 23 for Sunday’s clash with Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals.

View the full matchday 23 here.

Murphy slots in at 6

The expectation earlier in the week had been that Iain Henderson would be brought into Ireland’s back row, leaving room for Donnacha Ryan at lock, but Schmidt has backed Jordi Murphy to deliver at blindside flanker.

Jordi Murphy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Leinster man was unhappy with his performance against Wales in the World Cup warm-ups, but this selection is easy to understand. Such is the way with Schmidt’s selections.

Murphy played against Wales at blindside in the very first warm-up clash away to Wales, then again versus Romania in the pool stages. Recent experience in the position. The 24-year-old has also shown up superbly for Schmidt in big games in the last two seasons.

The win over England in this year’s Six Nations saw Murphy excel, albeit at number eight, and Schmidt has every faith the Leinster man will thrive again in a game where Murphy’s mobility may be very useful.

Murphy’s lineout prowess is another reason Schmidt has backed him, particularly given the loss of Peter O’Mahony in that area.

Loosehead selection

A tough call for Schmidt at loosehead prop. The promise of an increased ball-carrying threat from Healy as he works his way back towards full match fitness, or the superb form of Jack McGrath.

Ireland’s Jack McGrath Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The latter has perhaps been the more impressive scrummager in recent times, but then Healy’s pedigree in that department is beyond doubt. The joy for Ireland is having two looseheads who genuinely push towards the nebulous ‘world-class’ bracket.

In the end, Schmidt has gone with Healy. That is perhaps to ensure as little change as possible to the XV that started last weekend, but it’s certainly also because Schmidt feels Healy can improve on last weekend’s showing.

Excellent around the rucks, you feel there is more to come from Healy in the carrying and scrum stakes. His longstanding relationship with Rory Best and Mike Ross is a benefit in what is expected to be a fierce scrum battle.

Henry’s opportunity

Take a look back at the closing stages of Ireland’s win over France last weekend. Chris Henry was everywhere, always effective and aggressive with his actions. The loss of O’Mahony was coped with because the Ulsterman brought a hugely impressive work rate.

IrelandÕs Chris Henry Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Henry will be at openside flanker on Sunday, his natural position, and brings genuine form into this contest. Though he has only one full World Cup game under his belt, it was a high-quality offering against the Romanians.

Henry’s much-discussed tribulations in terms of health last year make this a lovely story, but his only concerns will be on providing Ireland with exceptionally quick ruck ball and spoiling the Pumas’ possession, as well as contributing his underrated handling skills and set-piece work.

Sexton and Earls pull through

It seems the closing weeks of the World Cup may well be defined by injury scares and suspension updates, although Ireland have come out on the other side of theirs in relatively good shape.

Jonathan Sexton Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sean O’Brien will miss out due to his one-game ban for striking Pascal Papé, but Keith Earls and Johnny Sexton have proven fit after missing training earlier in the week. Both men trained fully at the Millennium Stadium this morning and are named in Schmidt’s XV.

Earls was superb in defence last weekend, combining well with Robbie Henshaw in midfield, and will look for further opportunities to showcase his rich array of attacking skills on Sunday.

Sexton’s importance to Ireland, meanwhile, only increases with the absence of Paul O’Connell. Schmidt is missing one key tactical decision maker in O’Connell, but Sexton’s presence is reassuring. 

Leaders

Sexton assumes the heaviest share of tactical responsibility for Ireland – one he is used to – but there are other leaders in this Ireland group who can compensate for the losses of O’Connell, O’Mahony and O’Brien.

Jamie Heaslip after the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Rory Best stood out in that regard last weekend, hammering the rucks, while Rob Kearney was more vocal as the game progressed. Conor Murray’s calm influence at scrum-half will be important too.

Jamie Heaslip is a different sort of captain to O’Connell, but he has the deep respect of his teammates and remains one of the hardest working members of the side. Of course, O’Connell’s return to the Ireland set-up this weekend will be the biggest motivational tool of all.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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