Joe Schmidt explains why he decided not to hand Garry Ringrose his debut against the All Blacks
Following his fine showing at full-back in South Africa last summer, some thought that Jared Payne would retain the No.15 jersey to facilitate the promotion of Garry Ringrose for Saturday’s clash with the All Blacks, but Joe Schmidt has decided to revert to a more familiar back-line.
It can’t be of any great surprise that Schmidt has resisted the temptation to give the outstanding, but callow, Ringrose his first ever international start against what is quite possibly the greatest team ever assembled.
The Kiwi coach has never shown a cavalier side since assuming the reins of the national team, and sudden deviations from the norm, in tandem with minimal preparation time, is hardly the approach to be taken when facing the back-to-back world champions.
Instead, Ringrose will make do with a place on the bench, where he will be joined by fellow uncapped Leinster tyro Joey Carbery. Rob Kearney will win his 70th cap at full back, while Payne resumes his midfield partnership with Robbie Henshaw.
Speaking in Chicago following the team announced, Schmidt explained his thinking.
“There was a number of variables involved in that, including the balance of what was coming off the bench and what we have started,” Schmidt said.
“It’s about the experience, the magnitude of the game and the quality of opposition to be honest. That’s a starting point, but once those guys do get on it’s a chance to assess them against a very good opposition.”
Seasoned campaigners Simon Zebo and Andrew Trimble will assume the left and right wings respectively, while Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray are reunited at half back.
The relatively inexperienced Tadhg Furlong will look to fill the considerable hole left behind by Mike Ross at tighthead, but is joined by veterans Jack McGrath and Rory Best in the front row.
Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner are in the engine room, while the pack is completed by the same back row that started the famous win in South Africa last June, with Jordi Murphy and CJ Stander flanking Jamie Heaslip.
Of Carbery and Ringrose, Schmidt said that the youngsters were in buoyant mood, but also accepted what an ask it will be should he spring them from the bench if the Test in Soldiers Field is still there for the winning.
“They’re pretty excited, it’s a little bit daunting but at the same time it’s a great opportunity to learn,” Schmidt said. “When they get out there, the pace of the game will be sharp those two can run all day.
“It’s a bit of a baptism of fire, isn’t it. It’s probably not ideal, it would have been nice to have them in a Test match that is slightly less daunting.
"They’ve been refreshing in their enthusiasm and the excitement is over-riding the nerves as they go out and step on to such a big stage.
“They’re both quite natural players, the two young guys. Garry reads things well, he makes good decisions and picks his moment. Joey does similar. He’s played every weekend since the season started, we were keen to give him the weekend off but he’s had such a bounce in his step.”