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Dublin: 8°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Schmidt set to revert to Chicago history-makers but big call to confirm at 7

Sean O’Brien and Josh van der Flier have been in fierce competition for the openside slot.

JOE SCHMIDT WILL tomorrow confirm a big decision at openside flanker in his Ireland team to face New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday [KO 5.30pm, RTÉ 2].

The Kiwi head coach looks likely to almost totally revert to the starting XV that faced the All Blacks in Chicago two weekends ago, when Ireland won 40-29.

However, Schmidt’s team will definitely feature at least one change from that historic day after the injury to Jordi Murphy at Soldier Field, with Sean O’Brien and Josh van der Flier having been in fierce competition for the seven shirt.

Joe Schmidt Joe Schmidt before Ireland's win over Canada. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Rob Kearney is set to return at 15, with Simon Zebo and Andrew Trimble potentially back on the wings. Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne seem likely to continue in the midfield, while Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray should remain the first-choice halfbacks.

Jack McGrath, captain Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong would appear to be the favourites to start in the front row, as Devin Toner almost certainly continues to lead the lineout.

Schmidt has an important call to make in the other locking position, with Donnacha Ryan and Ultan Dillane in fierce contention and Iain Henderson also in the mix after his return from injury.

Dillane and Henderson are both explosive prospects, although Ryan’s maul, lineout and ruck work may see him given the starting nod.

The back row has been fiercely contested. CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip were outstanding in Ireland’s first-ever win over the All Blacks, as was van der Flier off the bench.

However, Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony have picked up form and fitness in recent weeks and have been highly motivated to get their shot at history.

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Heaslip is a key man at number eight, of course, while Stander seems likely to continue at blindside, with O’Brien possibly staying on in the seven shirt after featuring there against Canada last weekend.

The experienced Keith Earls could feature, although the performance of Garry Ringrose against Canada may see him fill the 23 shirt again. Schmidt could also be tempted to bring in the place-kicking composure of Paddy Jackson in the back-up out-half position, even if Joey Carbery has been impressive off the bench in the last fortnight.

Schmidt is set to name his team at 1.45pm tomorrow afternoon.

Possible Ireland team:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Andrew Trimble
13. Jared Payne
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Simon Zebo
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Devin Toner
6. CJ Stander
7. Sean O’Brien/Josh van der Flier
8. Jamie Heaslip


16. Sean Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Josh van der Flier/Sean O’Brien
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Paddy Jackson
23. Garry Ringrose

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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