Wednesday 26 July 2017

Earls switch is like moving across the front-row

Keith Earls in action for Ireland against the USA in New Jersey last week. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Keith Earls in action for Ireland against the USA in New Jersey last week. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

As Test rugby goes, the USA was a doddle. Just what the doctor ordered for Joe Schmidt in terms of performance and result.

It wasn't perfect but given a new and developing squad - effectively the Wolfhounds - a return including nine tries and five new caps represented a fair day's work in Harrison, New Jersey.

Despite having almost an entire team in New Zealand or back in Ireland rehabilitating, the overall objective for Schmidt on this tour of the USA and Japan will be three wins from three.

Yes of course deepening the pool is important to him, but only within the parameters of winning.

For tomorrow's first clash with Japan, he has made six changes in personnel - five behind the scrum - and one positional switch (Keith Earls moving from right wing to left) to the side that started against the Eagles.

Included among the replacements are two more uncapped players in Ulster second-row Kieran Treadwell and Leinster utility back Rory O'Loughlin.

Earls was superb last week in his more natural position on the right. Forwards might not appreciate the comparison, but switching wings in the modern game is akin to switching sides in the front-row of the scrum. That said it is only right that the more seasoned campaigner should be pressed to move.

The Munster back-three combination of Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway and Earls comes together for Ireland.

For Rory Scannell too it is a big but well-deserved leap.

Joey Carbery had a poor outing and would not have made the starting line-up to face Japan regardless of injury. A disappointing end to a dream season but he will come again, nothing surer.

The selection is tough on Kieran Marmion and Tiernan O'Halloran, while Dan Leavy coming in for Josh van der Flier represents an embarrassment of riches.

It will be close but take Ireland to defy the years.

Irish Independent

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