Wednesday 18 September 2019

Schmidt leaves three Lions out for Samoa as O'Connell confirmed as captain

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt's first Ireland team selection will raise plenty of eyebrows after he opted to leave Paul O'Connell, Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien on the bench for Saturday's Guinness Series clash with Samoa.

Leinster's Jack McGrath will make his international debut at loosehead prop, while Dave Kearney is also poised to win his first cap off the bench.

Fast-developing Leinster front-rower Jack McGrath will win his first cap at loosehead prop against the Samoans. The 24-year-old was called up to the Emerging Ireland squad to play in May's Tbilisi Cup, the inaugural round-robin tournament also including Georgia, a South Africa President's XV and Uruguay.

Paul O'Connell has been named as full-time captain with Heaslip acting as vice-captain.

Jamie Heaslip will continue to lead the team in O'Connell's absence from the starting line-up this weekend, while Paddy Jackson starts at out-half in the absence of the injured Jonathan Sexton.

"The captaincy, it was a tough decision. We're got a very good group who are steering the ship," Schmidt, who was named as Declan Kidney's successor in April, told a news conference.

"To have two guys at the helm allows us to cover our bases. Obviously with Paul, he's had an intermittent two years where he has had a number of injuries whereas Jamie is incredibly durable, and it just allows us to cover both bases."

Referring to the captaincy, Jamie Heaslip said: "The role is not something that you own or you hold onto, you're just looking after it, just like the green jersey.

15: Rob Kearney
15: Rob Kearney
14: Tommy Bowe
13: Brian O’Driscoll
12: Gordon D’Arcy
11: Fergus McFadden
9: Conor Murray
8: Jamie Heaslip
7. Chris Henry
6: Peter O'Mahony
5: Devin Toner
4: Mike McCarthy
3: Mike Ross
2: Rory Best
1. Jack McGrath
Replacements, 16:Sean Cronin
17: Cian Healy
18: Declan Fitzpatrick
19: Paul O'Connell
20: Sean O'Brien
21: Eoin Reddan
22: Ian Madigan
23: Dave Kearney

"I've played with Paul when he was captain plenty of times. I just went up to him, shook his hand and said well done skip."

Chris Henry plays ahead of O'Brien whose participation in training has been limited due to an ankle injury, while Devin Toner wears O'Connell's No5 jersey and will look to shake off his calf injury when introduced while Healy will look to do similar.

Paddy Jackson will start at fly-half, with Jonathan Sexton not named in the squad.

Sexton sat out a midweek training session after aggravating a niggle while goal-kicking. The 28-year-old Racing Metro fly-half was an unused replacement in his French club's surprising 9-6 Top 14 loss at bottom club Biarritz last Saturday.

Former Leinster playmaker Sexton complained of a stiff hip that day, and has now been omitted entirely from Schmidt's first matchday 23 as Ireland boss.

Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy win selection in the centres - meaning the midfield duo will rack up a combined 200 caps when they step out at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Schmidt has also named versatile Leinster back-three Dave Kearney on the bench, who will win his first cap if he takes the field.

Kearney could even line up alongside brother and starting full-back Rob, if he comes on at wing.

Despite the fact that the Samoans are ranked above Ireland in the IRB rankings, Schmidt is clearly keeping his powder dry for the visits of Australia and New Zealand to come.


IRELAND TEAM TO FACE SAMOA: (15-9)R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, F McFadden; P Jackson, C Murray; (1-8) J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; M McCarthy, D Toner; P O'Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip.

Replacements: (16-23) S Cronin, C Healy, D Fitzpatrick, P O'Connell, S O'Brien, E Reddan, I Madigan, D Kearney.

Online Editors

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