Ahead of what many people on social media are calling Ireland’s biggest rugby match in history, Joe Schmidt has named the most experienced side he has at his disposal for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final versus the All Blacks.
Of the 15 that will take the field in Tokyo, 12 were members of the starting side that beat the All Blacks last November in Dublin. Iain Henderson was also on the bench that day.
The Ulsterman replaces Devin Toner, Conor Murray starts at scrum-half instead of Kieran Marmion and Robbie Henshaw fills in for the banned Bundee Aki. Other than that, this is the team that were victorious over Steve Hansen’s side the last time they met.
Schmidt’s selection, though, has received a mixed reaction from fans on Twitter. On the one hand, some think this is the strongest side the head coach can put out – and the one they were expecting.
Experience goes a long way, particularly against a side as dominant as the All Blacks. Having players that know what it is like to beat them could be pivotal to victory on Saturday.
(Continue reading below…)
However, there are those that feel some experienced players are not the form players in their position. Peter O’Mahony and Rob Kearney have been singled out by many fans as the two players that are perhaps relying on their reputation at the moment.
With Rhys Ruddock proving his worth so far in the back row this World Cup, as well as Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway showing great form in the back three, Schmidt has been lambasted for depending on the older players in his squad.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 17, 2019
But Schmidt would be overlooking over 150 caps-worth of experience by excluding the British and Irish Lions duo, O’Mahony and Kearney. While they may not be playing at their best currently, there are pros and cons in selecting their less experienced alternatives.
This is a situation where there would have been as much – if not more – indignation among fans had the likes of Kearney or O’Mahony been dropped. Schmidt has simply turned to experience in this situation and Ireland will hope it pays off. This is what has been said:
Absolutely zero surprises. Obviously a pretty strong side, probably the only two who'd make it better would be Leavy and Aki. Hopefully Henshaw's shaken off the rust. https://t.co/gZE8XYlYXE
— Thomas Moroney (@tmoroney4697) October 17, 2019
The 4th World Cup in a row that Ireland have had a ridiculously conservative selection from a stubborn coach far too loyal to players both past it and out of form. It truly is a disease in Irish sport. Same story with the football team. https://t.co/8TnknLiZxY
— KH (@kev21h) October 17, 2019
Experience trumping form for the Irish..no Conway and Lamour
. Kearney a proven entity in the air,
Stockdale and Earls are quality too.
It's gonna be a Humdinger!! https://t.co/PF8uYlmWR5
— The Cerebal Assasin (@SportTheTiger) October 17, 2019
Same old players, same old game plan. Prepare for 60 mins of tucking it under the jumper before NZ score a few late tries to win by 20 points
— Blah Blah Blue ???????? (@BlaBlaBluester) October 17, 2019
Our best 15 ????? https://t.co/VXcdr6yE0w
— buzzer_rowe@hotmail. (@RoweBuzzer) October 17, 2019
Seems a bit dull and disappointing. Players who have put their hands up overlooked for the same old.
— Riley Cullum (@aceofspies64) October 17, 2019
Strongest possible starting team. I don’t know how people can say Earls hasn’t had a good game? Not watching the same games as me. Kearney was always going to start if fit, he covers the back field by himself, allowing us an extra man in defence. C’mon Ireland
— stephen nolan (@stephennolan17) October 17, 2019
A few of these lads owe Joe a massive performance after selection. On form so far you'd question Best, POM, Kearney, Henderson and Earls inclusions but lets hope Joe & Co have got this one right and the real Ireland show up on Saturday https://t.co/Od5fj3b8H8
— James Irwin (@OfficialBigJim) October 17, 2019
No surprises there
Putting our strongest 15 out, with plenty of impact from the bench
— Ronan (@ronanmcmanus) October 17, 2019
Despite winning two of their last three encounters, Ireland enter this match with the All Blacks as underdogs as a number of players have dropped their standards since November.
It would be unfair to accuse only O’Mahony and Kearney of that, as even Johnny Sexton, the 2018 World Rugby player of the year, has not been at his best. But they have already proven that they can beat the All Blacks and their coach is aware of that.
WATCH: A naked bungee, Brian O’Driscoll getting laid out in Bayonne and carrying Will Genia down the pitch… Stephen Ferris reveals all in episode three of RugbyPass Rugby World Cup Memories series
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.