Munster Man

Schmidt unlikely to ring the changes for Italy trip but Ryan could get recall

Ireland travel to Rome to take on the Italians in round two of the Six Nations.

JOE SCHMIDT IS set to recall Donnacha Ryan to his Ireland team to face Italy on Saturday in the Six Nations, but wholesale changes are unlikely.

The Munster man was left out of last weekend’s match day squad that lost to Scotland, although he did travel to Edinburgh as 24th man.

Donnacha Ryan celebrates winning Ryan helped Ireland to their first-ever win over the All Blacks last November. INPHO / Billy Stickland INPHO / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

Ryan is now expected to return to Ireland’s team for the first time since the November defeat to New Zealand in Dublin, with Iain Henderson possibly making way.

Schmidt is due to name his team tomorrow and it may also feature Cian Healy at loosehead as Ireland have been pondering rotating the experienced 29-year-old in for Jack McGrath.

McGrath has, of course, been a pillar of this Irish side and is generally one of the first names on the team sheet, but Healy’s ever-improving form may see him get a first start since the November win against Canada.

Schmidt is not expected to ring the changes this week, however, with the head coach having stated in the aftermath of the Scotland defeat that he was unlikely to make any “knee-jerk” reactions to a disappointing Six Nations opener.

Johnny Sexton remains on the comeback trail, meaning Paddy Jackson appears likely to partner Conor Murray in the halfbacks again. Meanwhile, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose’s centre combination should be given a chance to gel further at Test level.

Captain Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong are set to continue in the front row alongside McGrath or Healy, with Devin Toner possibly alongside Ryan in the locking department. A starting back row of CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip seems likely again.

The back three is one area where the competition for places is very strong, particularly with Andrew Trimble back in training.

The Ulsterman is a strong option to start, while Simon Zebo could potentially shift to fullback, although there is still some sense that Schmidt may keep faith with last weekend’s starting back three of Zebo, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls.

If that is the case, Trimble could come onto the bench in place of Tommy Bowe, even if Tiernan O’Halloran would be deserving of a shot in the 23, while Schmidt also has options in the back-up second row slot with Ultan Dillane and Henderson vying for the 19 shirt.

Schmidt is due to name his team at 1pm tomorrow afternoon.

Possible Ireland team:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Simon Zebo
10. Paddy Jackson
9. Conor Murray

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


16. Niall Scannell
17. Cian Healy/Jack McGrath
18. John Ryan
19. Iain Henderson
20. Josh van der Flier
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Ian Keatley
23. Andrew Trimble

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