VIDEO: Injuries weaken Ireland ahead of Scotland clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway were promoted to Ireland’s starting line-up Friday for their World Cup opener against Scotland after a frustrating week of backline injuries for the top-ranked side.
Rob Kearney and Keith Earls, who have more than 170 caps between them, had run out of time to prove full fitness, coach Joe Schmidt said, while Robbie Henshaw and Joey Carbery did not even enter the selection frame.
“The best continuity we had was the guys who trained throughout the time we were here,” Schmidt said of his rearranged backline when naming his side for Sunday’s Pool A game in Yokohama.
Larmour, Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki and Jacob Stockdale complete the starting backline outside regular halves Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray.
Larmour, who started on the wing when Ireland beat Wales 19-10 in their final warm-up match two weeks ago, has been moved to fullback while Conway, who also has experience at 15, stays on the wing.
Schmidt said he had every faith in his new-look backline who were “very, very keen to impress and now have that opportunity.
“Across the board I think we are happy with the starting 15 and the bench.”
In the forwards, Tadhg Furlong, captain Rory Best and Cian Healy – the most established front row of all 20 World Cup teams – will start together for the 14th time.
James Ryan and Iain Henderson occupy the second row while CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier and Peter O’Mahony make up the crucial back three.
“We know the breakdown is going to be hotly contested. There’s going to be challenges for [referee] Wayne Barnes that’s for sure,” Schmidt said.
The Pool A fixture will be played a day after New Zealand and South Africa open Pool B on the same pitch but Schmidt doubted that would be a problem.
“Whatever the surface is we’ll have to cope with it,” he said.
“If it has been chewed up a bit by the All Blacks and Springboks, that’s a pretty big game, some pretty big men running around, but one of the things that has impressed me is how quickly (ground staff) can turn round a manicured surface.”
Ireland: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Chris Farrell.
Date: Sunday, September 21
Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama
Kick-off: 16.45 (08.45 UK time, 07.45 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)