Sport Rugby

Thursday 22 February 2018

The Ireland XV that should start against the All Blacks in Chicago - no place for Peter O'Mahony or Sean O'Brien

Peter O'Mahony could be brought in, if Sean O'Brien loses out through injury
Peter O'Mahony could be brought in, if Sean O'Brien loses out through injury
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

It may seem odd that two Ireland's most celebrated back rowers should sit out Ireland first Test against the All Blacks at Soldier Field but it needs to happen.

Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony were both less than pleased when they received the curly finger during last weekend's Champions Cup action.

O'Mahony was his combative best in a hugely emotive game but the fact remains that he looked out on his feet when he was called ashore.

O'Brien lasted 40 minutes in Montpellier but Leo Cullen is doing the right thing is easing the Tank gradually back into action.

Only one of them is likely to make the matchday 23 for the Chicago encounter and O'Mahony is winning the race simply because he is further along in his rehabilitation.

Schmidt is playing his cards close to his chest. He's announced a new contract and a squad this week but hasn't appeared in front of the media.

Iain Henderson is injured but makes the cut. He surely can't take on the likes of Brodie Retallick or Sam Whitelock unless he's 100pc.

With those matters out of the way, what is the Irish XV that should take to the pitch at Soldier Field.

Jack McGrath gets the nod over Cian Healy, Rory Best is an automatic pick and Tadhg Furlong's experience gives him the edge over the improving John Ryan.

Ultan Dillane has played his best rugby for Ireland from the bench, Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan should start.

Ball carrying and mobility is going to be of paramount importance against the Kiwis and for that reason I'd play Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander either side of Jamie Heaslip.

The half-back partnership Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton won't be disturbed and outside of them Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne should reacquaint themselves with each other.

My back three would consist of Simon Zebo and Andrew Trimble on the flanks with Rob Kearney at full-back.

Given the All Blacks' tendency to annihilate teams in the final 25 minutes, the impact of the likes of Dillane, Healy, Sean Cronin and Luke Marshall will be key.

As much as we'd all love to see Garry Ringrose, he's just not ready yet.

Ireland XV to face New Zealand:

Rob Kearney

Andrew Trimble                                                                                   Simon Zebo

                      Jared Payne

                                       Robbie Henshaw

                                                              Johnny Sexton

Conor Murray

Jack McGrath Rory Best Tadhg Furlong

Devin Toner Donnacha Ryan

CJ Stander Jamie Heaslip Josh van der Flier

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