Monday 29 May 2017

Schmidt sweating on Earls but set to keep faith in Cardiff XV for Grand Slam-chasing England

10 March 2017; Keith Earls of Ireland is tackled by Rhys Webb of Wales during the RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
10 March 2017; Keith Earls of Ireland is tackled by Rhys Webb of Wales during the RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JOE SCHMIDT looks set to offer the starting XV who came up short in Cardiff last Friday night a shot at redemption against England at the Aviva Stadium this weekend if they can all come through training tomorrow.

The Ireland coach will delay naming his team until after the session at Carton House, with Keith Earls and Conor Murray the main concerns.

Earls looks set to be retained on the right wing if he comes through unscathed having sat out the early part of the week with a groin strain.

Likewise, Conor Murray will partner Johnny Sexton at half-back unless he shows any ill-effects of the shoulder injury he suffered against Wales as Ireland look to finish their disappointing campaign on a high.

Jared Payne could come on to the Ireland bench in place of the injured Tommy Bowe in the sole change to the 23 against an English side chasing a second consecutive Grand Slam and a world record 19th win in a row.

Payne remains short of match fitness despite playing three times for Ulster in recent weeks after a long lay-off as a result of a kidney injury suffered against Australia in November.

Otherwise, the head coach looks likely to resist calls for change by keeping Peter O’Mahony in reserve and retaining the back-row of CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip that has started throughout the campaign.

Rob Kearney is set to continue at full-back, with Earls and Simon Zebo on the wings with Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw partnering up in the centre.

Up front, Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong will be bolstered by Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner in the second-row.

Possible Ireland team to face England: R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, S O’Brien, J Heaslip. Replacements: N Scannell, C Healy, J Ryan, I Henderson, P O’Mahony, K Marmion, P Jackson, J Payne.

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