Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# big issues
Healy held back and more talking points from Ireland's XV for England
There’s no change at 23, while Jordi Murphy starts his second game of the championship.

JOE SCHMIDT NAMED his Ireland team and replacements to face England this afternoon, making just one change to the XV.

Check out the team here.

No change at 23

Felix Jones Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Perhaps a change that was anticipated and hasn’t come to pass was in the number 23 shirt, which Munster man Felix Jones has occupied for the opening two games of the Six Nations.

The fullback didn’t put a foot wrong off the bench against Italy, but there has been a nagging feeling that Schmidt might look to inject additional flair into his batch of replacements by including Luke Fitzgerald or Keith Earls.

Both players have been involved as the 24th man for one of two opening fixtures, but Schmidt has opted to remain faithful to Jones. He is likely to be rewarded with a typically composed performance from the former Seapoint RFC man if he calls on him against England.

Murphy’s second start

For the second time in this championship, Jordi Murphy starts at number eight. The injury to Jamie Heaslip means Schmidt’s only change to the XV is enforced, but Murphy is a man the head coach firmly believes in.

Murphy played at eight against Argentina last summer, as well as against the Italians in round one of this championship. Schmidt is a fan of the back row’s work rate around the pitch, as well as his efforts with ball in hand.

Up against a formidable England back row, Murphy faces into his toughest assignment yet at this level. The 23-year-old made his international debut against the English last year, performing well off the bench, and now looks to continue to rise.

Healy held back

Cian Healy Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Cian Healy is named on the bench for the second game in a row, having returned from a long spell on the sidelines due to the hamstring surgery he underwent back in September.

His push towards peak fitness continues after an impressive outing for Leinster last weekend against Zebre, but Schmidt has held him in reserve for this clash with Stuart Lancaster’s side.

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The prospect of Healy bounding off the bench with 25 or 30 minutes left on Sunday is certainly an exciting one, adding to the dynamic impact offered by Sean Cronin, Marty Moore and Iain Henderson.

Continuity wins out

Wholesale changes were never a possibility for this fixture, and the XV has been named as expected. Schmidt increasingly appears to be an advocate for continuity in selection.

Ireland’s philosophy means the player in possession of any particular shirt will retain their position as long as they meet Schmidt’s lofty demands for performance. So far, the players have hit their markers and Ireland’s coaching staff are rewarding that.

There is always temptation to wonder what might be missing in the composition of the XV and the 23, but Ireland have a winning formula at present and there seems little reason to attempt to fix what isn’t broken.

-Originally published 14.18

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Murphy at number eight as Schmidt opts for continuity in Ireland selection

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