Joe Schmidt has announced a strong Irish side to take on Wales in the last of Ireland’s warm up games before they head to Japan for the World Cup.
Rory Best is the only Ulsterman involved in the starting lineup in what will be his final professional game of rugby on Irish soil. Jacob Stockdale is rested while Iain Henderson starts on the bench.
Stockdale and Peter O’Mahony are the only names missing from what otherwise is a full strength Irish side.
Best captains the side from hooker alongside Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong in the front row. James Ryan returns to the starting lineup in the second row while Jean Kleyn gets another chance to impress alongside the Leinsterman. Despite O’Mahony’s absence, it’s still a very balanced back row. CJ Stander starts on the blindside with Josh vd Flier at 7 and Jack Conan at 8.
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton resume as Ireland’s half back pairing with Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw in the centre. Garry Ringrose misses out while Henshaw gets his first taste of game time since the end of last season. It will be interesting to see how a duo of inside centres get on as Schmidt has usually opted for either Aki or Henshaw and then Ringrose or Farrell. Henshaw is equally adept at 12 or 13. Keith Earls starts on the left wing with Jordan Larmour on the right and Rob Kearney at full back.
According to World Rugby, an Irish win (regardless of scoreline) would see Schmidt’s men climb to number one in the world as the All Blacks cannot improve their rating with victory over Tonga. It’s roles reversed from last week as Wales would need to win by at least 15 points to return to the top while a win would see them take Ireland’s second spot.
Ireland could drop to fifth however, if they lose by more than 15 points and England and South Africa both defeat Italy and Japan by less than 15 points.
Wales too have gone fully loaded with Warren Gatland making 15 changes from the match last week. The side certainly looks more like the one that dismissed Ireland so easily during the Six Nations campaign.
Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell get the nod for tomorrow in Wales’ ongoing half back battle. The pair came on in the second half last week and the dynamic of the game turned in their favour, registering 14 unanswered second half points. By taking the ball to the defensive line, he asked a lot more questions of the Irish defence than Jarrod Evans did in the first half.
Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies were an effective partnership during the Six Nations while Jake Ball and Alun-Wyn Jones provide grunt in the second row. In a similar fashion to Best, Jones brings out the best in the team whenever he takes to the field whether that be in an Ospreys jersey or a Welsh jersey.
The FRU predicts: While not perfect, it was a good win in Cardiff last weekend so I think Ireland can make it two on the bounce by defeating Wales in Dublin tomorrow and be the world’s number one side heading into the World Cup, but more importantly, allow the supporters to give Rory and Joe the send offs that they deserve.
|Rob Kearney||15||Leigh Halfpenny|
|Jordan Larmour||14||George North|
|Robbie Henshaw||13||Jonathan Davies|
|Bundee Aki||12||Hadleigh Parkes|
|Keith Earls||11||Josh Adams|
|Johnny Sexton||10||Rhys Patchell|
|Conor Murray||9||Tomos Williams|
|Cian Healy||1||Wyn Jones|
|Rory Best||2||Elliot Dee|
|Tadhg Furlong||3||Tomas Francis|
|James Ryan||4||Jakes Ball|
|Jean Kleyn||5||Alun-Wyn Jones|
|CJ Stander||6||Aaron Wainwright|
|Josh vd Flier||7||Justin Tipuric|
|Jack Conan||8||Ross Moriarty|
|Sean Cronin||16||Ken Owens|
|Dave Kilcoyne||17||Nicky Smith|
|Andrew Porter||18||Dillon Lewis|
|Iain Henderson||19||Adam Beard|
|Rhys Ruddock||20||Josh Navidi|
|Luke McGrath||21||Gareth Davies|
|Jack Carty||22||Dan Biggar|
|Garry Ringrose||23||Liam Williams|