Tuesday 25 October 2016

Ireland at full strength for final dress rehearsal but Healy won't be risked

Published 03/09/2015 | 02:30

Paul O'Connell
Paul O'Connell

Joe Schmidt looks set to follow Stuart Lancaster's lead and name his strongest side possible for Saturday's final warm-up game against England at Twickenham.

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Having named his final 31-man squad on Tuesday, the New Zealander is now targeting a first away win over the old enemy in five years as a springboard for his side's assault on the biggest prize in rugby and is expected to turn to his tried-and-trusted Six Nations performers.

Captain Paul O'Connell is expected to lead a familiar-looking team and he is likely to be joined by long-time second-row partner Devin Toner, with Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip tipped to be reunited in the back-row.

Rory Best looks like making his first start of the campaign in the front-row alongside Jack McGrath and Mike Ross, with Tadhg Furlong potentially covering the loosehead slot.

Cian Healy is available after recovering from neck surgery, but Schmidt may resist the temptation to play the Leinster star given his limited workload to date.

Behind the scrum, Schmidt is expected to pair Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton for the second successive week, while Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne are likely to renew their centre partnership.

Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney are set to be the back three.

Ireland (Possible team v England) - R Kearney; T Bowe, R Henshaw, J Payne, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; D Toner, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Irish Independent

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