BOTH ROB KEARNEY and Garry Ringrose were removed from the selection equation for Ireland’s November Test against Argentina on Saturday through injury, with Joe Schmidt unveiling a much-changed and more experienced starting XV this week.
Kearney was ruled out of the Aviva Stadium rematch with the Pumas [KO 6.30pm, RTÉ 2] with a shoulder problem, while Ringrose sustained a hip knock and didn’t train with the squad at Carton House this morning.
Overall, Schmidt has made 12 changes from last week’s facile victory over Italy in Chicago, with the likes of captain Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander all returning as expected.
Such is the strength of the depth chart within the national squad, Tadhg Beirne, outstanding against Italy, Josh van der Flier and Rhys Ruddock aren’t included in the matchday 23 for the second game of Ireland’s autumnal programme.
Much of the debate during the week revolved around the fullback position and with Kearney missing, Schmidt has handed the number 15 jersey to Jordan Larmour after his dazzling hat-trick at Soldier Field.
Munster’s Andrew Conway and Will Addison of Ulster were both in the frame, but Schmidt’s decision to pick 21-year-old Larmour is another indication of his soaring stature. The former St Andrew’s College star will win his eighth cap on Saturday evening.
Larmour is joined in the back three by Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale, while Henshaw and Bundee Aki resume their Connacht Pro12-winning midfield partnership with Ringrose’s absence making Schmidt’s tricky three-into-two decision a lot more straightforward.
In the half backs, Sexton is joined by Connacht’s Kieran Marmion, with Luke McGrath dropping down to the bench after starting against the Azzurri, while John Cooney — the third nine in the squad — will have to bide his time for further game time.
The stocks in the second row and back row are particularly well-resourced, as evidenced by the fact van der Flier, Beirne, Ruddock, Jack Conan and Jordi Murphy all miss out.
O’Mahony and Stander were among those excused from duty last week and were always expected to return to the side, with Schmidt handing Sean O’Brien a first international appearance in 12 months after the Leinster flanker made a strong return from injury.
O’Brien, set to win his 52nd cap against the Pumas, has built up his minutes for the eastern province in recent weeks and now looks in prime position to be first-choice for the All Blacks next week.
In the second row, Schmidt was faced with a similarly difficult call. Beirne’s two-try performance in his first Ireland start was clearly not enough for him to be retained, with James Ryan straight back into the engine room to partner Ulster’s Iain Henderson.
After missing the summer tour of Australia through injury, Best returns to the front row to skipper the side and packs down alongside Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong.
On the bench, Dan Leavy is the surprise inclusion after only arriving into camp at Carton House this morning after his trip to South Africa with Leinster.
Greg Feek suggested this weekend would come too early for the 24-year-old to be involved, but Leavy will provide the back row cover ahead of van der Flier, Ruddock and Murphy.
Sean Cronin is preferred to Niall Scannell and Rob Herring, Jack McGrath and Andrew Porter offer real power and oomph and Joey Carbery and Conway are named as number 22 and 23.
Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud
15. Jordan Larmour
14. Keith Earls
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Kieran Marmion
1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Sean O’Brien
8. CJ Stander.
16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Devin Toner
20. Dan Leavy
21. Luke McGrath
22. Joey Carbery
23. Andrew Conway.
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