It’s less than 48 hours until Ireland’s biggest game of this four-year World Cup cycle gets underway and Joe Schmidt has opted for experience in his starting 15.
Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale are all involved in the lineup while Rob Herring, who flew to Japan during the week, misses out with Niall Scannell named as the replacement hooker.
Along side Best in the front row is the familiar faces of Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong and loosehead and tighthead respectively. Iain Henderson and James Ryan combine in the second row with the Ulsterman fresh from a decent outing against Samoa last week. Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander start in the back row.
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton continue as the halfbacks while Robbie Henshaw replaces the suspended Bundee Aki at inside centre. Garry Ringrose starts at 13 while the back three is made up of Stockdale, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney.
Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour miss out on starting spots due to Schmidt’s preference for the tried and tested. The Munsterman is Ireland’s top try scorer at this year’s tournament with three and has looked dangerous in attack in recent games. Larmour makes the bench and impressed in the opening match against Scotland. However it’s hard to argue against the inclusion of Kearney who always seems to turn up against the All Blacks, putting in exceptional performances in his last three outings against them.Bundee
Steve Hansen has opted to persist with the Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett combination at 10 and 15, while arguably the in form back row forward in the world, Ardie Savea, starts on the blindside. TJ Perenara would start at scrum half at any other nation but with Aaron Smith in the side, Perenara has to contend with a spot on the bench.
With their match against Italy cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis last weekend, the All Blacks last played against Namibia on 6th October, racking up 11 tries in a 71-9 victory. I don’t think a lack of competition will be a problem for New Zealand as they’ve shown on countless occasions that they can turn up when required.
Schmidt’s tenure with Ireland has been successful, recording a Grand Slam and two Six Nations’ wins as well as a tour win in both Australia and South Africa, not forgetting Ireland’s first two wins over New Zealand. Despite playing the most consistent side in the World over the last decade, there will be a significant amount of pressure on an Irish side which has never reached a semi final of the World Cup.
However Ireland have shown that they can overcome all odds in season’s past. Chicago is the obvious example but also in the Six Nations when England travelled to the Aviva Stadium in 2017 expecting a win to seal the Grand Slam. Ultimately, I fear it could be another quarter final exit for Ireland.
The FRU predicts: It will be a physically entertaining encounter between two exceptional sides however I think the All Blacks will have enough to keep Schmidt’s men at an arm’s length throughout. New Zealand by 11 points.
|Beauden Barrett||15||Rob Kearney|
|Sevu Reece||14||Keith Earls|
|Jack Goodhue||13||Garry Ringrose|
|Anton Lienert-Brown||12||Robbie Henshaw|
|George Bridge||11||Jacob Stockdale|
|Richie Mo’unga||10||Johnny Sexton|
|Aaron Smith||9||Conor Murray|
|Joe Moody||1||Cian Healy|
|Codie Taylor||2||Rory Best|
|Nepo Laulala||3||Tadhg Furlong|
|Brodie Retallick||4||Iain Henderson|
|Samuel Whitelock||5||James Ryan|
|Ardie Savea||6||Peter O’Mahony|
|Sam Cane||7||Josh vd Flier|
|Kieran Read||8||CJ Stander|
|Dane Coles||16||Niall Scannell|
|Ofa Tuungafasi||17||Dave Kilcoyne|
|Angus Ta’avao||18||Andrew Porter|
|Scott Barrett||19||Tadhg Beirne|
|Matt Todd||20||Rhys Ruddock|
|TJ Perenara||21||Luke McGrath|
|Sonny Bill Williams||22||Joey Carbery|
|Jordie Barrett||23||Jordan Larmour|