Saturday 21 July 2018

Aki and Stockdale deserve the nod for opener

Joe Schmidt still has a very strong deck to choose from for Saturday’s game against South Africa. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt still has a very strong deck to choose from for Saturday’s game against South Africa. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Back in March the team that rammed the Chariot read: J Payne; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; J Sexton, K Marmion; J McGrath, R Best, T Furlong; D Ryan, I Henderson; P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, CJ Stander.

Ten of that line-up made the Lions with all but Jared Payne fit and firing again now. Against that, of course, is the return to action and incredibly consistent form of Conor Murray.

With Murray and nine of that successful side chomping at the bit for the first home match since, I find it difficult to look beyond all 10 starting.

While Murray and Co were doing their stuff in New Zealand, the following team lined out in the final summer Test in Japan : A Conway; K Earls, G Ringrose, L Marshall, J Stockdale; P Jackson, K Marmion; C Healy, J Tracy, J Ryan; K Treadwell, D Toner; R Ruddock, J Van der Flier, J Conan.

Of the 27 players who started those games - Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose and Kieran Marmion ran on in both - all but seven (Payne, Ringrose, Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan, Luke Marshall, Paddy Jackson and Josh van der Flier) are, for varying reasons, not in the frame now.

However, Joe Schmidt still has a very strong deck to choose from for Saturday's game against South Africa.

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