Thursday 23 January 2020

Schmidt looks to future as Ross left out for Chicago

Six new faces with Ringrose best placed to face world champions

Mike Ross of Ireland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Mike Ross of Ireland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Two players hold the joint-record for starts for Ireland during Joe Schmidt's time in charge with 30 appearances.

Jamie Heaslip will make it 31 against New Zealand in Chicago next Saturday, Mike Ross will not after he was left out of the 34-man panel selected yesterday.

The 36-year-old Leinster prop will remain in Ireland while Tadhg Furlong (23), Finlay Bealham (25) and John Ryan (28) make the trip.

Signs that the coach was preparing for life after Ross (right) were evident during the summer tour to South Africa when Schmidt left him out of the match-day squad for the second Test.

He was restored to the team for the deciding game, but Tadhg Furlong's performance in Johannesburg would appear to have finally earned him the trust of the management.

For years the cornerstone of Ireland's scrum, Ross's time appears to be near its end.

That means Furlong is set to start as long as he shows no adverse reaction as his hamstring problem heals, with Bealham on the bench.

Both men offer more around the park than Ross, but the veteran has never let his country down with his primary job.

Given the lack of depth in the tighthead ranks, the Corkman could still earn a recall and as long as he's playing for Leinster he'll be available.

Otherwise, the squad is largely along expected lines.

Stuart Olding and Tiernan O'Halloran miss out after starting the last game on tour, but both have had their injury issues recently. Marty Moore and Ian Madigan are overlooked.

Fit-again Tommy Bowe is another who is omitted, but the centrally-contracted Ulster winger has been slowly working his way back to form since returning after almost a year out.

Not all of the 34 players named will travel to the United States on Monday. Keith Earls is suspended and unlikely to appeal his two-week ban, while Iain Henderson's shoulder injury is likely to keep him out.

Of the six new caps, Garry Ringrose looks the most likely to be involved against the world champions.

Joey Carbery, Billy Holland, James Tracy, Ryan and Luke McGrath may be slated for debuts against Canada a week later, but the centre could yet be primed for a baptism of fire at Soldier Field.

With Earls suspended and Olding left out, Schmidt could revert to his trusted midfield partnership of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne despite the Kiwi's fine displays at full-back last summer.

Rob Kearney is in a battle to reclaim the jersey, and there must be some temptation to give the budding Leinster pairing their international bow. It would be a brave call, but Schmidt has never let that get in his way.

Simon Zebo looks a straight swap for Earls on the wing, while Johnny Sexton has declared himself fit and should take the No 10 jersey back from Paddy Jackson alongside Conor Murray.

Up front, Schmidt has options at loosehead with Jack McGrath and Cian Healy fit, while Rory Best has been confirmed as captain and will be backed up by Sean Cronin.

Henderson's likely absence opens the door for Donnacha Ryan to partner Devin Toner in the second-row with Ultan Dillane braced for impact.

The back-row will give the Ireland coach the most headaches with Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien likely to play for their provinces this weekend as they continue to catch up on match fitness.

Providing they come through the interprovincials unscathed, Schmidt will be selecting from O'Mahony, CJ Stander, O'Brien, Josh van der Flier and Jamie Heaslip. Tommy O'Donnell misses out again.

Schmidt said that more than half the squad will be involved this weekend and added that a number of players are on stand-by.

The rest will gather today to begin preparations. They fly out on Monday.

POSSIBLE IRELAND XV v New Zealand - J Payne; A Trimble, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, T Furlong; D Toner, D Ryan; P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip. Reps: S Cronin, C Healy, F Bealham, U Dillane, CJ Stander, K Marmion, P Jackson, R Kearney.

Ireland Squad

Forwards: Finlay Bealham (Age 25, Ireland caps 2), Rory Best (34, 97), Sean Cronin (30, 52), Ultan Dillane (22, 5), Tadhg Furlong (23, 8), Cian Healy (29, 58), Jamie Heaslip (32, 88), Iain Henderson (24, 28), Billy Holland (31, 0), Jack McGrath (27, 33), Jordi Murphy (25, 16), Sean O'Brien (29, 42), Peter O'Mahony (27, 38), Donnacha Ryan (32, 40), John Ryan (28, 0), CJ Stander (26, 7), Devin Toner (30, 39), James Tracy (25, 0), Josh van der Flier (23, 2)

Backs: Joey Carbery (20, 0), Keith Earls (29, 52), Craig Gilroy (25, 8), Robbie Henshaw (23, 22), Paddy Jackson (24, 16), Rob Kearney (30, 69), Kieran Marmion (24, 6), Luke Marshall (25, 8), Luke McGrath (23, 0), Conor Murray (27, 50), Jared Payne (31, 16), Garry Ringrose (21, 0), Johnny Sexton (31, 61), Andrew Trimble (32, 66), Simon Zebo (26, 25)

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