Friday 15 December 2017

Ireland starting team to face All Blacks: Sean O'Brien set to get nod from Schmidt

Schmidt to stick closely to Chicago heroes for All Blacks

Cian Healy, right, Sean O'Brien, centre, and Garry Ringrose of Ireland during squad training
Cian Healy, right, Sean O'Brien, centre, and Garry Ringrose of Ireland during squad training
Sean O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt looks set to stick largely with the heroes of Soldier Field for Saturday's re-match with New Zealand.

The one vacancy from the win over the All Blacks in Chicago comes at openside flanker where Sean O'Brien and Josh van der Flier are battling for the No 7 jersey vacated by the injured Jordi Murphy.

O'Brien's experience could edge a tight call over his Leinster colleague who came on for the injured Murphy in the first half of a famous 40-29 win, but it would be no surprise to see Joe Schmidt keep faith with the younger man and introduce the Tullow Tank for impact when he names his team at 1.45 today.

With Murphy out with a knee injury, the other 14 starters from that victory are likely to return to the team after Joe Schmidt rested them for the win over Canada.

O'Brien started that game, his first Test since he injured his hamstring in the defeat to France in February, and came through 70 minutes before being replaced.

So, Schmidt is likely to resist the temptation to make any changes to his tight five, with Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner set to continue in the second-row with Ultan Dillane, man of the match against Canada, continuing on the bench and fit-again Iain Henderson missing out.

Schmidt is tipped to name Paddy Jackson as back-up out-half ahead of Joey Carbery, while Keith Earls is in a battle with Garry Ringrose for the No 23 jersey.

Conor Murray will be named despite missing training on Monday.

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