Wednesday 16 October 2019

Ireland v Samoa: Robbie Henshaw returns as Scots heap pressure on Joe Schmidt's men

Robbie Henshaw during Ireland Rugby squad training session at Shirouzuoike Park in Fukuoka
Robbie Henshaw during Ireland Rugby squad training session at Shirouzuoike Park in Fukuoka
Robbie Henshaw during Ireland Rugby squad training session at Shirouzuoike Park in Fukuoka, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Fukuoka

ROBBIE HENSHAW will make his belated entry into the 2019 World Cup when he starts Saturday's pivotal pool game against Samoa.

The centre missed Ireland's first three matches against Scotland, Japan and Russia with a hamstring injury he picked up on the eve of the tournament, but is named to partner Bundee Aki in a close-to-full-strength side.

Scotland's 61-0 win over Russia yesterday has increased the pressure on Joe Schmidt's men to score four tries while beating the Islanders this weekend in order to avoid an anxious wait to learn their fate.

Although Scotland's meeting with hosts Japan on Sunday is now in real danger of joining England v France and New Zealand v Italy in being cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis, a decision will not be made until Sunday.

If it is cancelled, both teams will be awarded two points meaning Japan are guaranteed to top the pool.

Ireland are currently on 11 points, three behind Japan and one ahead of Scotland. If they fail to get the bonus point, it opens up the possibility of a three-way tie, in which case the top two teams will be separated by points difference and second and third will be decided on head-to-head.

That scenario puts Ireland in grave danger of elimination, so Joe Schmidt will be drilling home the need for a four-try win to his troops ahead of the game.

The coach is due to name his team at 8am this morning and, if everyone comes through training overnight, he will name Johnny Sexton at out-half as Rory Best returns to captain the team.

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Jordan Larmour is handed the No 15 shirt as Rob Kearney recovers from the groin strain he suffered in the win over Russia, with Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale making up the same back three that started the win over Scotland.

Henshaw is reunited with Bundee Aki in the midfield, with the New Zealander set for an emotional afternoon. Both of Aki's parents are Samoan, he played in the Samoan Village leagues as a youngster and he is close to a number of players in the Islanders' squad.

Sexton is partnered by Conor Murray, with a first-choice tight-five of Cian Healy, Best, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and James Ryan ready to provide clean, quick ball to the half-backs.

Tadhg Beirne is named at blindside ahead of in-form Rhys Ruddock and Peter O'Mahony, with the Munster skipper on the bench. Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander make up the back-row.

Joey Carbery is back on the bench, having been pulled at the last minute last Thursday.

He is joined by Luke McGrath and Andrew Conway.

After his man of the match display against Russia, Ruddock is a surprise omission from the bench with Jean Kleyn named to cover the second-row. Niall Scannell gets the nod to cover hooker ahead of Sean Cronin, with Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter covering the props.

Ireland team to face Samoa (Sat, 11.45am): J Larmour; K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong; I Henderson, James Ryan; T Beirne, J van der Flier, CJ Stander. Replacements: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, A Porter, J Kleyn, P O'Mahony, L McGrath, J Carbery, A Conway

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