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The immovable Mike Ross and more talking points on Ireland's first team-sheet of the season

Joe Schmidt’s first squad for the summer series is jam-packed with experience.

JOE SCHMIDT NAMED his first starting line-up of a new season today. And while there is plenty of moving and shaking before the really important games kick-off in mid-September, there is no danger that players desperate for a place in the World Cup squad will take this fixture lightly.

1. Taking no chances

This has the look of a team designed to put a positive spin on the opening week of Ireland’s public World Cup prep.

Ian Madigan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The sight of Jamie Heasliip, Andrew Trimble, Jack McGrath and Eoin Reddan makes this an experienced and strong starting line-up that comes despite Wales naming an experimental XV early this week.

Of course, not all of the established names are certain starters and most will have more on their minds than simply ramping up match fitness.

2. Welcome back, Donnacha

Donnacha Ryan’s return to the Munster line-up was welcome enough. But given the manner of his last Test for Ireland, the Tipperary man must have been straining at the leash to get back in green.

Devin Toner, Donnacha Ryan, Jordi Murphy and Paul O'Connell Source: James Crombie/INPHO

This Saturday will be Ryan’s first cap in Schmidt’s tenure and it comes almost two and a half years on from the last day of Declan Kidney’s reign, when Ryan started Ireland’s humbling at the hands of Italy.

Iain Henderson doesn’t need his hand held, but the presence of a more experienced lock beside him to take control of the line-out and provide the gruff hard edge that Ryan makes his trademark should make the pack a more cohesive unit.

3. The immovable Mike Ross

At the start of the year, it looked like the Corkonian workhorse had finally been surpassed. Mike Ross was second choice with Leinster and a Six Nations was imminent. Yet here we stand on the edge of a new international season and the tighthead is sustaining his record of starting every single Test since Schmidt took over as Ireland head coach.

Mike Ross, Jonathan Sexton and Gordon D'Arcy arrive Source: James Crombie/INPHO

His importance to the pack and the set-piece is undeniable, but you can’t help but feel the number three jersey needs a back-up plan sooner rather than later. Schmidt still has three more warm-up games to play with other front row combinations before the big show starts in mid-September. And, if he wants the immovable Ross when it counts, he’ll surely have to end this impressive run before the month is out.

4. Starter for 10

Another Test match opportunity, another chance to see how Ian Madigan fares from the start passes by. Surrounded by an experienced outfit, Jackson now appears nailed on to be Schmidt’s second choice starting out-half for the World Cup.

Joe Schmidt and Paddy Jackson Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Whether that means he can make the bench is a different conversation. What Jackson lacks in experience at centre and fullback he makes up for with game management and an ever-increasing array of weapons with his hands.

5. New combinations?

Simon Easterby promised new combinations early this week and we all probably jumped the gun expecting new faces instead. Though the matchday 23 is without an uncapped player, half-packs will get some valuable minutes under their belts and the centre pairing of Keith Earls and Darren Cave is certainly unfamiliar.

It’s an axis that’s well worth testing to gauge Earls’ ability to cover that channel on this stage on top of his obvious talents on the wing and may provide an answer for how Schmidt might allow Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne some rest in the opening two tournament fixtures.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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