Earls must complete HIA protocols but team changes will strengthen Ireland

Joe Schmidt is set to bring back in the likes of Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and Garry Ringrose.

Murray Kinsella reports from Melbourne

KEITH EARLS WILL need to complete the usual return-to-play protocols if he is to feature in this weekend’s second Test at AAMI Park in Melbourne, having suffered a head injury against the Wallabies last Saturday.

The Ireland wing took a blow to the head in the 23rd minute when competing for the ball in the air and played on until the 25th minute, when he was removed and failed a Head Injury Assessment.

Cian Healy Cian Healy during Ireland's gym session in Melbourne today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland are hopeful that Earls will be passed fit later this week as they look to level the series in Melbourne, but otherwise they reported no fresh injuries from the 18-9 defeat in Brisbane.

Joe Schmidt is set to make notable changes to his starting team that should ensure Ireland send out a stronger XV second time around.

Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong and Sean Cronin – all of whom were on the bench for the first Test – are expected to come into the side, while Garry Ringrose and Dan Leavy also look likely to start after not being involved last weekend.

With Schmidt keen to balance the search for a victory with his aim of building squad depth on this tour, Ireland may also include Tadhg Beirne for a debut, while Devin Toner and Andrew Conway are also among the possible fresh faces in the matchday 23.

Rebounding from defeat is something Ireland haven’t had to do since losing to Wales on 10 March in the 2017 Six Nations, but they are convinced that they can return to their Grand Slam standards of performance second time around in Australia.

“It’s something we haven’t felt in a long time,” said CJ Stander at Ireland’s team hotel in Melbourne today.

CJ Stander CJ Stander at Ireland's gym session. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think at some stages we weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be and as sharp as we were in the Six Nations. The other thing is that Australia took all their chances and converted them into points, whereas we didn’t.

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“As far as preparation is concerned, we were well organised. We came in the week before, trained well, slept well, recovered well. But in the game, we made mistakes we weren’t used to making.

“People made mistakes they had never made before. Luckily, we can look back on it now and know that we can fix those things.

“We know when we fix them we can get to the level we were at in the Six Nations.”

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