Sunday 19 November 2017

Joe Schmidt won't risk Robbie Henshaw for Romania clash

Ireland players (from bottom left) Tadhg Furlong, Jamie Heaslip, Conor Murray, and Mike Ross as they enjoy the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers during yesterday’s down day ahead of Sunday’s clash with Romania
Ireland players (from bottom left) Tadhg Furlong, Jamie Heaslip, Conor Murray, and Mike Ross as they enjoy the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers during yesterday’s down day ahead of Sunday’s clash with Romania
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt is unlikely to risk Robbie Henshaw against Romania on Sunday despite the centre's return to fitness.

The Athlone native's hamstring strain ruled him out of last week's World Cup opener against Canada, but he has taken part in training this week at the squad's base at St George's Park.

Ideally, Schmidt would like to give the 22-year-old a run before the action steps up next week when his side face Italy, with Henshaw and Jared Payne having played together just once since the summer.

However, it looks as though he will resist that temptation in order to ensure the Connacht centre will be fully available for the crucial Pool D games to come.

Ireland will train this morning before Schmidt names his team. Ireland manager Mick Kearney yesterday said all 31 players were fit and available for the Wembley clash.

It appears unlikely that Johnny Sexton, Iain Henderson or Peter O'Mahony will be involved after sitting out Wednesday's session, given Schmidt's history of not playing players who don't train in the week of internationals.

The coach could ask Rob and Dave Kearney to go again along with Tommy Bowe in the back-three, with Darren Cave possibly covering No 12 alongside Keith Earls. Ian Madigan is favourite to partner Eoin Reddan at half-back, although Paddy Jackson could also feature.

Schmidt may be tempted to hand Cian Healy his first start in the front-row, with Nathan White favourite to replace Mike Ross, while Richardt Strauss and Sean Cronin are vying for the hooker's shirt.

Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan are set to come in to the team for Henderson and Paul O'Connell, who may win his 106th cap off the bench, with Jamie Heaslip leading the side alongside with Jordi Murphy and Chris Henry in the back-row.

Schmidt names his side at 12.45 today before the team make their way to London to step up their preparations.

Romania coach Lynn Howells has confirmed that he is likely to rest as many of his players as possible for their second game in four days and fears for his side against Ireland after losing to France on Wednesday.

"It is a fear and I think Ireland are better equipped to play against Romania," he conceded.

"Knowing what Irish rugby's like and knowing how physical they can be, which is the one thing that Romania brings to the game. . . they are more equipped to play against that style of rugby than France are."

Howells names his team at 1.00pm.

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