Joe Schmidt admits selecting Garry Ringrose for his third World Cup match in 11 days represents a calculated risk for Ireland.
Head coach Schmidt insisted Ireland’s “hands are tied” to press Ringrose back into action five days after the 19-12 loss to Japan, with Chris Farrell concussed and Robbie Henshaw not quite fit.
Johnny Sexton will captain Ireland for the first time in Thursday’s clash with Russia in Kobe, as Ireland look to set their Pool A campaign back on track.
Schmidt has made 11 personnel changes from the Japan defeat to account for their hectic schedule, with Schmidt insisting Leinster centre Ringrose is itching to get back into action.
“It’s a risk but Garry is feeling great, and he’s playing super,” said Schmidt, of selecting Ringrose again.
“I thought Garry was really good last weekend, he was one of the guys who didn’t really miss a beat.
“He was still working really hard, creating opportunity.
“He moved into 12, we had Jordan Larmour at 13, who’s really a back-three player for us, we had Luke McGrath on the wing and we were chasing the game, and that’s a fairly tough situation to be in.
“Sometimes because you’re limited to 23 players it happens like that.
“Robbie is on the cusp of being available, and if we’d put him back in this week, which we’d thought about, we felt that was a risk we don’t need to take because Garry’s feeling good.
#RWC2019 @JohnnySexton will be the 106th player to captain Ireland when he leads the team against Russia on Thursday. Congratulations Johnny.#TeamOfUs #ShoulderToShoulder #IREvRUS pic.twitter.com/en890QmEkz
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) October 1, 2019
“We can put Robbie in maybe next week, and at the same time we’ve got Bundee (Aki) back, and he’s got a fair bit of bounce about him.
“With Chris Farrell suffering a concussion and it being a five-day turnaround, our hands are tied there, and we want to make sure we look after Chris as well and that’s part of the formula.
“We thought about potentially moving Keith Earls there, but then we’d have had to keep Jacob Stockdale ticking over, and so it was really based around who was still feeling really good.
“Bundee and Garry have a really good midfield relationship so it works out hopefully that that will still be productive for us.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 29, 2019
Ireland will field an all-Munster front-five to take on the Russians, with Tadhg Beirne and Jean Kleyn pairing up at lock.
Jordi Murphy is handed an immediate start at number eight having replaced the injured Jack Conan in the 31-man squad.
Fly-half Joey Carbery will cover scrum-half from the bench, indicating the Munster star’s versatility in the Ireland ranks.
IRELAND TEAM TO FACE RUSSIA IN KOBE ON THURSDAY: R Kearney (Leinster), A Conway (Munster), G Ringrose (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), K Earls (Munster), J Sexton (capt), L McGrath (both Leinster), D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, John Ryan, T Beirne, J Kleyn (all Munster), R Ruddock (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), J Murphy (Ulster). Replacements: S Cronin, A Porter, T Furlong (all Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), CJ Stander, J Carbery (both Munster), J Carty (Connacht), J Larmour (Leinster).
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