Saturday 19 October 2019

Revealed: Joe Schmidt puts full faith in Jordan Larmour for full-back role as he names team for World Cup opener

Coach names new-look back-three as Kearney and Earls lose fitness race for Cup opener

Head coach Joe Schmidt during Ireland Rugby squad training at the Ichihara Suporeku Park in Ichihara, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Head coach Joe Schmidt during Ireland Rugby squad training at the Ichihara Suporeku Park in Ichihara, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jordan Larmour. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Jordan Larmour has won the battle for the full-back jersey in Ireland's World Cup opener against Scotland.

The Leinster man gets the nod ahead of Andrew Conway to replace the injured Rob Kearney at No 15 in a new-look Ireland back-three.

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With Munster team-mate Keith Earls also ruled out through injury, Conway will start on the right wing with Joe Schmidt set to name a strong, familiar-looking side for Sunday's clash with the Scots in Yokohama.

Larmour has had more game-time at full-back than Conway in the past year and his selection is a strong vote of confidence from the head coach.

In the pack, CJ Stander has seen off Jack Conan's challenge to start at No 8 alongside Peter O'Mahony and Josh van der Flier, with Iain Henderson joining James Ryan in the second-row.

Conan is on the bench, with Tadhg Beirne edging Jean Kleyn for the No 19 shirt. Schmidt has selected his first-choice front-row as Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong link up with captain Rory Best. Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter and Niall Scannell provide cover.

There is plenty of familiar combinations behind the scrum too, where Conor Murray links up with Johnny Sexton once again, while Garry Ringrose partners Bundee Aki in midfield.

Jacob Stockdale joins Conway and Larmour in the back-three, with Chris Farrell on the bench. Jack Carty is the replacement out-half and Luke McGrath provides cover for Murray.

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Schmidt said Earls and Kearney are fit but had not quite shaken off their injuries to have enough training time to merit selection.

"Keith Earls was the sharpest player on Wednesday at training," he commented.

"He's good and Rob Kearney trained well as well.

"We were really just getting tight for time. The best continuity we had was to have the guys we'd had training through the time we were here.

"It's exciting to have the back three we've got as well. It's a great opportunity and a fantastic challenge."

With wet conditions forecast, Schmidt doesn't think either side will have an edge in the rain.

"It’s interesting, you just have to adapt to the conditions, they will adapt as well," he added.

"If Greig Laidlaw is at scrum-half, he’s a very proficient kicker, he’s a very effective goal-kicker as well.

"When it does rain, points become just that little bit more valuable because they are harder to get because it’s harder to sustain continuity of play. Therefore, Greig Laidlaw could be very useful for them.

"We know Finn Russell has a huge variety of a kicking game, he will be a threat, and Stuart Hogg has a long kicking game.

"In the end if you mix that up with us, with the likes of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton, I don’t think there’s too much between the teams, wet or dry.

"[I] haven’t see the surface since we looked here some months ago, whatever the surface is we’ll have to cope with.

"If it has been chewed up by [tomorrow’s game between the] All Blacks and the Springboks, it’s a pretty big game, they are pretty big men running around.

"One of the things that has impressed me is how quickly the [groundstaff] turned it around, a manicured surface,

"The surface was good here when we [in Japan] in the summer 2017, we’d anticipate a good surface even if it is a little bit wet."

Scotland are due to name their team at 9.30 this morning.

IRELAND (v Scotland) – J Larmour; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong; I Henderson, James Ryan; P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander. Reps: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, A Porter, T Beirne, J Conan, L McGrath, J Carty, C Farrell.

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