WATCH: Schmidt: Earls and Henshaw will show ‘limitless courage’ against Bastareaud

WATCH: Schmidt: Earls and Henshaw will show ‘limitless courage’ against Bastareaud

By Grainne McGuinness and Shaun Cronin

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is backing his centre partnership against the might of French powerhouse Mathieu Bastareaud.

With Jared Payne not being risked as he recuperates from a foot injury, Schmidt has chosen to start Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw in the centre against France on Sunday evening.

The two sides meet in the Millennium Stadium to decide who tops the Pool D table and Bastareaud is France’s number one weapon for the battle.

After today’s team announcement, Schmidt was asked if he thought Munster’s Earls would have the strength to take him on.

Video by Dan Linehan.

"I think more often than not he’ll be marking up with Wesley Fofana,” he answered. “He has got all sorts of elements to his game.”

That’s not to say Schmidt was underestimating the threat posed by the French centre.

“We don't have someone who is the same size as Bastareaud in the squad anyway,” he said. “I have got massive respect for what he brings to their team.

“We have long had difficulty in containing him.”

He continued: “I remember seeing about four of our players hanging off him in the Stade de France two years ago, including (Gordon) D’Arcy and (Brian) O'Driscoll, two of the best centres we have ever had.”

Henshaw and Earls may not have the physicality of Ireland’s previous centre partners, but their coach is still backing them to make their presence felt on the field.

"One thing I know, is that both the centres have pretty much limitless courage and will put themselves in the way of Basteraud or anyone else coming down that channel,” Schmidt said.

“We hope that is sufficient on Sunday."

Breakingnews.ie reporter Shaun Cronin talks to Irish Examiner rugby correspondent Simon Lewis about the team selection. Video by Dan Linehan.

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