Sport Six Nations

Thursday 21 September 2017

Tony Ward picks his Ireland XV for England and calls for bench reshuffle

Jordi Murphy's performance for Ireland against Italy leaves him primed for the role despite his lack of game-time in the number eight role for his club. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Jordi Murphy's performance for Ireland against Italy leaves him primed for the role despite his lack of game-time in the number eight role for his club. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

The Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will not be making wholesale changes - Sunday's game will be similar to the French match, although the English are a more complete team with a much smarter driving force in Stuart Lancaster.

We may be playing extremely limited rugby, taking little risk in terms of off-loading or pushing the pass, but we are winning, and winning with conviction in how we are going about it.

So I'd expect 14 of the same 15 to start, with Jordi Murphy coming in for Heaslip.

The only decisions to cause even a hesitation might concern both props, where there is little to choose between Jack McGrath and Cian Healy (lack of game-time for the latter is still the key concern) at loosehead and between Mike Ross and the ever-improving Marty Moore at tighthead.

I feel that the best way to get the best out of the quartet is to leave well enough alone - expect a front-row revamp on the hour.

Iain Henderson's turn will come and sooner rather than later but on the basis the lineout ain't broke, the Devin Toner/Paul O'Connell second-row combination has a set-in-stone look about it.

In the back-row Peter O'Mahony will start at No 6, with I suggest Sean O'Brien and Murphy sharing No 7 and No 8 duties - Murphy generally packing down at the base of the scrum, but with the facility of switching O'Brien should the appropriate attacking position arise.

Despite Luke Fitzgerald's consistent good form at centre or wing, I would leave Simon Zebo on the left in an unchanged backline.

There will be one change of necessity on the bench. I would go with Tommy O'Donnell, although Robbie Diack's versatility is an asset.

A little more thought should go into the replacement backs, where Ian Madigan's inclusion is a certainty.

Eoin Reddan completed a successful hour for Leinster against Zebre, and I would recall him in place of Isaac Boss, given his ability to alter the tempo and make an impact off the bench in case of mid-match crisis, although Boss is excellent at closing out a game.

The utility back too is a difficult call given Felix Jones' consistency and the faith Schmidt so clearly places in his squad presence, but I would have Fitzgerald.

Tony Ward's XV to start against England:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Tommy Bowe                                11. Simon Zebo
13. Jared Payne
                                      12. Robbie Henshsaw
10. Jonathan Sexton
          9. Conor Murray
6. Peter O'Mahony 8. Jordi Murphy 7. Sean O'Brien
4. Devin Toner 5. Paul O'Connell
1. Jack McGrath 2. Rory Best 3. Mike Ross

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Marty Moore
19. Iain Henderson
20. Tommy O'Donnell
21. Eoin Reddan
22. Ian Madigan
23. Luke Fitzgerald

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