Thursday 17 January 2019

Joe Schmidt makes one change to Ireland XV for Grand Slam tilt at Twickenham

Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has made one change to his starting XV as his side seek a first Grand Slam title in nine years when they take on Eddie Jones' England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Ulster lock Iain Henderson replaces Devin Toner in the second row with the remainder of the matchday 23 unchanged.

Peter O'Mahony, Rob Kearney and Cian Healy have been passed fit for Ireland's all-out assault on a NatWest 6 Nations clean sweep.

British and Irish Lions lock Henderson's selection represents the sole change from Ireland's 28-8 win over Scotland, that sealed their third Six Nations title in five years.

Flanker O'Mahony and full-back Kearney sat out training on Tuesday, but have since proved their fitness to start the St Patrick's Day clash. Prop Healy appeared unsteady on his feet against Scotland, but Ireland insisted he suffered a shoulder "stinger", not a head injury.

Tensions around Saturday's London battle have been raised considerably by the emergence of a video where England boss Eddie Jones referred to the "scummy Irish".

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has received an apology from the Rugby Football Union.

Jones apologised on Wednesday after footage emerged of him referring to Joe Schmidt's team as the "scummy Irish" and Wales as a "little s*** place".

The video showed Jones during a talk on leadership for Fuso, the Japanese parent company of England sponsors Mitsubishi.

Jones insisted he was "very sorry" after the video came to light.

Ireland boss Schmidt insisted England boss Jones' filmed comments will not alter his side's approach this week.

"I'm not exactly sure what they were," said Schmidt. "They are not directly relevant to us to be honest.

"Those words don't impact on how we play or how his team plays and that's our focus."

Asked if the furore over Jones' comments will hinder Ireland's preparation, Schmidt said: "I don't think so.

"I know it's probably at the stage of being boring, which we don't want to be described as, but the bubble we have here allows us to focus on the task in hand."

Assistant match referee Marius van der Westhuizen acted as an official in England's Tuesday training session, leading to questions of a possible conflict of interest.

But head coach Schmidt insisted Ireland will back Van der Westhuizen's integrity, despite being taken aback by his appearance at England's training session.

"That is a bit of a surprise," said Schmidt, of Van der Westhuizen helping out at England training.

"I'm sure in retrospect people are probably thinking it's not the best thing to do.

"I know Marius and I would have no hesitation in standing by his integrity.

"I don't think it will affect his decision-making and we'll stand by him as an official on Saturday."


Ireland team to play England: (15-9) R Kearney, K Earls, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale, J Sexton, C Murray; (1-8) C Healy, R Best, T Furlong, J Ryan, I Henderson, P O'Mahony, D Leavy, CJ Stander.

Replacements: (16-23) S Cronin, J McGrath, A Porter, D Toner, J Murphy, K Marmion, J Carbery, J Larmour.

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