Five posers for Joe Schmidt ahead of his Irish team selection

With a first win against the All Blacks in 111 years, a slew of heroic individual performances and all bar one of the 23 given last weekend off, it won’t be easy for Joe Schmidt to tamper with the recipe that cooked up victory in Chicago.
Five posers for Joe Schmidt ahead of his Irish team selection

Yet, some change is expected.

Elements of Ireland’s team sheet remain untouchable but there are questions over the identity of personnel in the second and back rows, maybe one over the back line and on the bench where individual impact and combinations will again dictate.

Schmidt reveals all today at lunchtime.

Sean O’Brien or Josh van der Flier at 7?

Jamie Heaslip remains virtually untouchable at number eight and CJ Stander was outrageously good on the blindside against the ABs but Josh van der Flier stepped into the breach in the first-half two weeks ago when Jordi Murphy’s ligaments came a cropper and played superbly.

Does Schmidt retain the inexperienced Leinster man or does he opt instead for the ball-carrying impact of the returning Sean O’Brien who started against Canada?

Peter O’Mahony is also available but has never started at seven under the current head coach.

O’Brien, van der Flier, or Peter O’Mahony on the bench?

Van der Flier registered 13 tackles against New Zealand, a stat among the highest in the Irish ranks despite his late entry to the game, so it would be some blow if he was to drop out of the 23 as his experienced peers return to service.

O’Mahony hasn’t come off the bench for Ireland since his debut season in 2011-12 but he was still going strong in injury-time against Canada, carrying twice in the run-up to the last try. He brings greater experience and a renowned aggression to the table. And, like O’Brien, some anger after missing Chicago.

Donnacha Ryan or Ultan Dillane? Or Iain Henderson?

Dillane’s case is beginning to look rock solid after his man of the match display against Canada and his destructive cameo against the world champions a week earlier but an improved All Black lineout must be expected and therefore considered this week as well.

Ryan formed a second row partnership of great worth in Chicago with Devin Toner and showed his abilities at that setpiece again when stealing a Canadian throw on his introduction last Saturday.

Then again, maybe the now fit Iain Henderson will be parachuted in. The luxury of it all.

Paddy Jackson or Joey Carbery?

Carbery has impressed on both his cameos thus far in recent weeks. No-one doubts that he brings something different, more off-the-cuff, to the table than Jackson but the Ulster ten will surely win the contest to act as back-up to Jonathan Sexton this weekend.

Jackson kicked superbly against Canada after missing Chicago for ‘personal reasons’ and demonstrated last summer in South Africa he can be relied on to hold the reins from early doors should it be required.

Is there room on the bench for Keith Earls?

Some debate has been simmering as to whether Earls can displace Simon Zebo on the wing.

That would be harsh on the latter after his solid and sometimes spectacular input in the Windy City so a spot on the bench seems more doable for his Munster colleague.

Schmidt has always been a fan and, though Garry Ringrose added to a burgeoning reputation on his debut against Canada, Earls has the experience to go along with the exceptional footwork, pace and aggression he showed last time out.

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