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Dublin: 7°C Tuesday 11 May 2021

Schmidt likely to go for continuity as Jackson gets set to steer the ship

Joe Schmidt is definitely missing Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw for the final November Test.

INJURY CONCERNS MEAN Joe Schmidt will be forced to make several late decisions on his Ireland XV to face Australia at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday [KO 5.30pm, RTÉ 2].

Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw have already been ruled out of the November Test in Dublin, but CJ Stander and Rob Kearney are still coming through return-to-play protocols after head injuries, while Simon Zebo has been dealing with a calf issue.

Ireland’s Paddy Jackson Paddy Jackson is set for a start in Ireland's 10 shirt. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Stander, Kearney and Zebo took modified parts in Tuesday’s training session at Carton House, but Schmidt will wait until after tomorrow’s pitch session to make final calls on that trio and any other players carrying knocks or niggles.

Right now, the sense is that Stander, Kearney and Zebo should pull through.

With Michael Chieka’s Wallabies coming into this weekend on the back of wins over Wales, Scotland and France, it seems likely that Schmidt will go for continuity in his XV as much as possible.

Sexton’s hamstring injury means Paddy Jackson is set to wear the 10 shirt, having replaced the Leinster man in the first quarter of last weekend’s 21-9 defeat to the All Blacks.

There is a big decision for Schmidt to make in the 12 shirt with Henshaw missing, after Garry Ringrose plugged the hole off the Ireland bench last weekend.

Luke Marshall wore 12 for Ireland against Canada, but made errors as well as providing several positive contributions in that eight-try win.

Stuart Olding was called back into Schmidt’s squad this week, as was Munster’s Rory Scannell. Ulsterman Olding is a player Schmidt has always rated highly, although he hasn’t played since a Champions Cup game on 22 October.

Given Schmidt’s preference for tried-and-tested combinations, it will have been a relief to have two Ulster 12s to choose from this week in between Jackson and outside centre Jared Payne.

Olding has less rugby under his belt in recent times, but the memory of his two excellent performances at 12 for Ireland in South Africa in June may see him given the nod.

There are a number of important decisions for Schmidt to make on the bench too, with Iain Henderson and Ultan Dillane both offering impact as the replacement lock. Keith Earls, meanwhile, has continued to push for inclusion as the 23rd man.

If selected as captain again, Rory Best will earn his 100th Ireland cap on Saturday.

Schmidt is scheduled to name his starting team and replacements at 1.45pm tomorrow.

Possible Ireland team:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Andrew Trimble
13. Jared Payne
12. Stuart Olding
11. Simon Zebo
10. Paddy Jackson
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Devin Toner
6. CJ Stander
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip


16. Sean Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Iain Henderson/Ultan Dillane
20. Josh van der Flier
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Joey Carbery
23. Garry Ringrose

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Murray Kinsella

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