Cian Healy to start on bench as Schmidt set to give Jack McGrath nod
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt looks set to resist the temptation to start fit-again Cian Healy for Sunday's crunch Six Nations clash against England.
Despite Leinster scrum coach Marco Caputo's insistence that the loosehead prop is ready and is the ideal man to take on Leicester No 3 Dan Cole, it appears the Ireland management will stay loyal to Jack McGrath, who has started all of their big wins this season.
Healy is two matches into his return from a serious hamstring injury and has yet to start a game. He came through 40 minutes for Leinster last weekend and reckons he is ready to go, but admits McGrath remains the man in possession.
"It's going to be tough to budge Jack, he's been in there for the slog of it and he's done a really good job," he said.
Forwards coach Simon Easterby broadly hinted that McGrath's performances will see him go again despite Healy's return, meaning Jordi Murphy coming in for Jamie Heaslip would be the only change to the Irish team.
"Cian is getting back up to speed," the former Ireland flanker said. "He has probably recovered far quicker than anyone expected. He's in great shape for someone who has been out of the game for so long.
"He's desperate to get back in the starting line-up, but he's got a young player in Jack McGrath who has been playing particularly well also.
"It's great that we have that depth there at the moment, in that loosehead position. Whoever starts will give you a certain level and someone coming on won't drop that, so we're in a strong position. Jack's numbers are high in everything he does."
Although Easterby refused to rule Heaslip out of contention despite the fact that be broke three vertebrae in his back against France two weeks ago, his recovery appears highly unlikely.
That means Murphy is the next in line for the No 8 shirt, while Tommy O'Donnell is on track to take his place on the bench as he continues to recover from the concussion he suffered while playing for Munster last weekend.
Eoin Reddan is primed to come on to the bench, while Schmidt faces a choice as to whether Luke Fitzgerald is in line for a recall ahead of Felix Jones when he names his team tomorrow.
England have lost full-back Mike Brown after he failed to recover from his head injury in time, which means Alex Goode is set to start.