Sunday 21 January 2018

Schmidt picks Reddan to spearhead attack as he rings changes for Wallabies clash

Nick Purewall

EOIN REDDAN will spearhead Ireland's quicksilver attacking ambition against Australia after winning the nod at scrum-half ahead of British and Irish Lion Conor Murray.

The 32-year-old Leinster half-back will make his first Ireland start since March 2012 in autumn international action against the Wallabies in Dublin on Saturday after the team line-up was confirmed by coach Joe Schmidt.

Schmidt has favoured the former Wasps number nine in order to drive his side's tempo against the quick-witted visitors.

While Munster man Murray is an accomplished technician, 51-cap Reddan knows how to add impetus to a contest.

And against world-acclaimed Will Genia, former Leinster boss Schmidt believes that asset will be vital.

Ulster centre Luke Marshall has edged out experienced 12 Gordon D'Arcy in midfield, pairing up with Brian O'Driscoll to win his fourth cap.

Jonathan Sexton is fit to start as expected at fly-half, while lock Paul O'Connell captains the side from the second row.

O'Connell makes his first Ireland start since the 17-17 RBS 6 Nations draw with France in Paris in March 2012.

The 34-year-old new skipper will reprise his battle with gritty Wallabies lock James Horwill that was such a feature of the Lions' victorious tour Down Under in the summer.

Leinster's lofty 6ft 11in lock Devin Toner has won the battle to partner O'Connell, selected ahead of Mike McCarthy, who drops to the bench, and Dan Tuohy.

Cian Healy returns at loosehead prop, with Leinster club-mate Jack McGrath dropping to the bench.

Ian Madigan has been preferred to Paddy Jackson for the replacement fly-half berth, as much for his attacking acumen as his versatility in covering midfield and also full-back.

Sean O'Brien is fit to start at openside flanker, and will face an intriguing battle with Wallabies scavenger extraordinaire Michael Hooper.

Connacht back-three man Robbie Henshaw has forced out Dave Kearney for the final seat on the bench.

Kearney has been overlooked despite his two-try debut in last week's 40-9 victory over Samoa that opened both the autumn internationals and the Schmidt era.

Schmidt believes the "talismanic" duo of O'Connell and O'Driscoll will offer Ireland a huge boost as they prepare to start their first match together since the 2011 World Cup quarter-final.

Schmidt was not aware of that statistic until this week but has backed both stand-out stars to be heavily involved against the Wallabies.

"I hadn't realised that stat to be honest, but it's great to have them back," Schmidt said.

"They are both very much talismanic for us, they lead by example, and it's fantastic for us to have them both starting."

Schmidt said he selected Reddan ahead of Murray at scrum-half to help boost Ireland's strength in depth.

He added: "Coming into this autumn series we had a mindset we would try to grow the squad to a degree, not to have to rely on the same starting XV.

"We're happy with Conor, but it's about an opportunity.

"We were delighted with Paddy (Jackson), and it's unlucky for Paddy, but we just feel Ian (Madigan) gives us more cover off the bench.

"Jonny (Sexton) was rested last week and he comes in fresh.

"Gordon (D'Arcy) spent time with Luke (Marshall) during the week making sure he can be as good as possible for this weekend."

Ireland team to play Australia: (15-9) R Kearney, T. Bowe, B O'Driscoll, L Marshall, F McFadden, J Sexton, E Reddan; (1-8) C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O'Connell, P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Replacements: (16-23) S Cronin, J McGrath, S Archer, M McCarthy, K McLaughlin, C Murray, I Madigan, R Henshaw.

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