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# big calls
Schmidt set to start Toner and Healy as Earls misses out for France clash
The Ireland head coach looks likely to back Dave Kearney and Tommy Bowe as his wings.

JOE SCHMIDT IS set to name Devin Toner and Cian Healy in his starting XV for Ireland’s crucial World Cup Pool D clash with France on Sunday in Cardiff.

Keith Earls is set to lose out to Dave Kearney and Tommy Bowe in the selection battle for the wing spots.

Healy underwent neck surgery in May, putting his involvement in the tournament at risk, but has battled his way back to fitness and Schmidt now looks ready to put his faith in the loosehead prop from the off against a powerful France pack.

IrelandÕs  Cian Healy Healy looks to have won the race to start at loosehead.

Toner, meanwhile, struggled to hit his best form in the World Cup warm-ups but has responded well to the threat of Iain Henderson in the second row. The Leinster lock’s lineout and maul skills will be pivotal versus les Bleus.

Henderson is now likely to be restricted to an impact sub role for the contest in the Millennium Stadium, bringing his destructive physicality into the endgame, while Jack McGrath might also count himself unfortunate to miss out on the starting XV.

With Schmidt set to back Bowe and Dave Kearney as the wings in his team to face the French, presumably focusing on that pair’s aerial strength, the in-form Earls is set to miss out on Ireland’s biggest game of the tournament so far.

Indeed, the Munster flyer may even be omitted from the 23 entirely, with Luke Fitzgerald a possibility to cover the outside back positions from the bench.

Jared Payne has recovered from a bruised foot and fullback Rob Kearney is set to start at fullback after his glute strain, both those players having missed last weekend’s meeting with Italy in London.

Healy is likely to be joined in the front row by Rory Best and Mike Ross, while captain Paul O’Connell will be in the second row. Schmidt is set to name Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and Jamie Heaslip in an unchanged back row.

IrelandÕs  Devin Toner Billy Stickland / INPHO Toner has rarely let Schmidt down in a big game. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will direct the game plan from the halfback positions, while Robbie Henshaw will look to offer a physical threat alongside Payne in midfield.

Sean Cronin, McGrath, Nathan White, Henderson, Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan are all likely to be on the bench, while Chris Henry appears to have won the battle with Jordi Murphy as the replacement back row.

Earls and Simon Zebo are attractive options as the 23rd man, but Schmidt may opt instead to call on Fitzgerald’s versatility.

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Schmidt names his matchday squad at 1.30pm tomorrow.

Possible Ireland team v France:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Tommy Bowe
13. Jared Payne
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Dave Kearney
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best
3. Mike Ross
4. Devin Toner
5. Paul O’Connell (captain)
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip


16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. Nathan White
19. Iain Henderson
20. Chris Henry
21. Eoin Reddan
22. Ian Madigan
23. Luke Fitzgerald

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