Ireland skipper Rory Best believes Ross Byrne has the perfect chance to enhance his World Cup selection credentials should he conjure a composed and confident showing against a potent England side this Saturday.
Ireland have rolled out the majority of their big guns to take on Eddie Jones’ England in London. Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw will sit it out, but head coach Joe Schmidt insisted both men could have featured had they been required.
The situation has allowed Byrne to make his full Test debut at fly-half in the absence of both Sexton and Joey Carbery, whose World Cup remains in doubt due to ankle ligament trouble. “When you come to Twickenham you realise the magnitude of the stadium,” said Best ahead of a match likely take place in balmy conditions of 28°C.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play here several times. It’s a fantastic place to play rugby, it’s a great place to play rugby – but it’s also a great place to show what you’re made of, and to show your value to this team. And that’s Ross’ opportunity.
“The thing for the rest of us now is to make sure that we step up to make it easier for him to step up. We’re in a good place… it’s going to be hot for both teams, but they could be similar to the temperatures at the World Cup, so it’s good practice.
‘It’s a a fantastic and intimidating place to play rugby but it’s a great place to show what your made of as a player." – @RoryBest2 on Twickenham#ENGvIRE #ShoulderToShoulder pic.twitter.com/amBsv9VL9g
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) August 23, 2019
“Both teams will be facing the same conditions; we play enough rugby in the wind and the rain that it’s probably not right to moan about the sunshine!”
Meanwhile, coach Schmidt has handed Ireland new boy Jean Kleyn a World Cup selection crib sheet. South Africa-born Munster lock Kleyn made his Ireland debut just two days after qualifying on residency, when boss Schmidt’s men saw off Italy 29-10 in Dublin on August 10.
The 25-year-old could find himself in a straight fight with Munster team-mate Tadhg Beirne for the final lock berth in Ireland’s 31-man World Cup squad. Kleyn has retained his place to face England but has also been challenged to raise his level again, with the versatile Beirne taking a seat on the bench.
“We gave him some things to work on from last time and we want to see if those can materialise on Saturday,” said Schmidt, of Kleyn. “Because he’s so new in, we felt that it was a priority to give him the time. Again, it is a fickle balance at the moment.
“Devin Toner knows our game inside out so needed less of the time, while Iain Henderson has just trained so well this week we’re looking forward to seeing him out there.”
Lineout titan Toner and his Leinster colleague James Ryan remain Ireland’s premier lock pairing, with Ulster and British and Irish Lions star Henderson a combative and dependable option off the bench.
— liam heagney (@heagneyl) August 5, 2019
Munster’s former Scarlets man Beirne and Henderson are both high-level back-row operators too, and that adaptability carries paramount importance amid the tight squeeze of a 31-man squad. Schmidt remains intent on handing all his back-five scrum options chances to shine across these World Cup warm-up clashes.
“It also gives Tadhg Beirne the opportunity to be that cover-all back-row, second row,” said Schmidt. “I’m not saying he’s not good enough to start in either of those positions but he’s nice security, having him covering all five of those back-five positions, albeit at seven we’d probably need to mix and match somebody but he can cover six, eight or five.”
– Press Association
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