Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Peter the Great

Farrell places trust in old stagers with O'Mahony and Earls picked to start against New Zealand

Cian Healy has also made a remarkable recovery from the ankle knock he picked up against the Maori All Blacks to secure his place on the bench.

IN A SENSE it is a case of out with the old and in with the older, as Andy Farrell has opted to tinker with his starting XV by bringing two veterans back into the Test side for the opening match of their three test series against New Zealand this Saturday (kick-off 8.05am, Sky Sports).

Few can argue with the logic of the decision. With Mack Hansen out with covid and Robert Baloucoune injured, the wing options available to Farrell were slim enough ahead of the latest reunion with the All Blacks.

Essentially it came down to a decision between Keith Earls and Jordan Larmour. The 34-year-old won the vote. He deserves his shot at it too because even if he did play yesterday against the Maori All Blacks, Earls is not quite yesterday’s man. He was Munster’s one shining light in their dismal loss to Ulster earlier this month.

Another older player also got the nod to start in his back-row as 32-year-old Peter O’Mahony was favoured over Jack Conan – a selection that requires Caelan Doris to relocate from blindside to No8.

Otherwise the team was selected along predictable lines. Four of the front five are Leinster players – Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong filling the front row slots, James Ryan and Munster’s Tadhg Beirne selected as the starting locks. Remember hookers Ronan Kelleher and Rob Herring as well as second rower, Iain Henderson, are injured.

O’Mahony and Doris are joined by Josh van der Flier in the back row with Conan dropped to the bench. Kieran Treadwell provides cover at lock, Dave Heffernan at hooker, with Cian Healy making a remarkable recovery from the injury he picked up in yesterday’s defeat to the Maori All Blacks to take his place on the bench.

shaun-stevenson-with-ciaran-frawley-and-keith-earls Earls featured against the Maoris on Wednesday. Photosport / Jeremy Ward/INPHO Photosport / Jeremy Ward/INPHO / Jeremy Ward/INPHO

Named at No18, Healy has been asked to cover loosehead and tighthead. “He can do both,” said Farrell, “as can Finlay Bealham (the other replacement prop). They are both training that way.”

In the backs, Jamison Gibson-Park teams up with Johnny Sexton at half back; Robbie Henshaw with Garry Ringrose in midfield; with Earls’ considerable skills complemented by the presence of James Lowe and Hugo Keenan in the back three. Six of the starting backs, and 12 of the starting XV, are Leinster players.

With Joey Carbery on the bench, four of the match day 23 – Lowe, Gibson-Park and replacement centre, Bundee Aki, being the others – have deep connections to New Zealand.

Every advantage counts here. It is 28 years since the All Blacks were last defeated in Eden Park. Ireland, of course, have still to defeat New Zealand on their soil, although they did win when the sides last met in Dublin, eight months ago. Guarding against revenge will be key to Farrell’s team talks.

“We are under no illusions about what we are up against at the weekend,” the Ireland coach said. “Any type of performance we have had before, that got us over the line, that won’t do this weekend.”

Ireland team

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 20 caps
14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 96 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 42 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 57 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 12 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 105 caps CAPTAIN
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 17 caps

1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 43 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 7 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 57 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 30 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 43 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 84 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 40 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 17 caps


16. Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 caps
17. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 23 caps
18. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 116 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 5 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 27 caps
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 96 caps
22. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 32 caps
23. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 37 caps

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