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Schmidt rings changes for Ireland

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Mass changes for Ireland with only four starters retained from Japan loss

Joe Schmidt has rung the changes for Ireland for their next World Cup opposition, Russia.

In total, just four players who started in Ireland’s loss to Japan have maintained their spots in the run-on side.

With just two matches left to play before the quarterfinals, Schmidt will be trying to give all 31 of his squad members a run whilst not burdening his top players with too heavy a workload.

The entire Irish tight five will be making their first starts of the tournament so far.

Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan will pack down in the front row, while Tadhg Berne and Jean Kleyn come in for Iain Henderson and James Ryan in the locks.

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Peter O’Mahony is the sole survivor in the loose forwards but will shift from the blindside flank to the openside. Rhys Ruddock and recent call-up Jordi Murphy round out the trio, at 6 and 8 respectively.

Luke McGrath earns a start at scrumhalf and will pair with fit-again flyhalf Johnny Sexton.

Bundee Aki is back in the 12 jersey and will partner Gary Ringrose, the only player in the squad to make three starts in the same position.

Keith Earls and Andrew Conway are the wings, with Rob Kearney at fullback. Both Kearney and Earls scored tries for Ireland the last time they faced Russia at the World Cup, back in 2011.

Sexton, who takes over as captain from Cian Healy, is optimistic that his team will respond well to the poor performance they put out against the Brave Blossoms.

“At the start of the Six Nations we turned things around. We had a really good performance against France,” said the flyhalf.

“Things went bad against England [at Twickenham in late August] – we turned it around and beat Wales back to back. So they’re a very good team and we beat them.

“We started with a bang last week against Scotland – so, yeah, if we can go on a bit of a run now, a five-game winning run would be great. That would do nicely.”

Ireland’s clash with Russia will kick off at 7:15PM JST from Kobe Misaki Stadium.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls, Johnny Sexton (c), Luke McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne. Res: Sean Cronin, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, CJ Stander, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Jordan Larmour.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was not a happy man after his side’s loss to Japan:

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Mass changes for Ireland with only four starters retained from Japan loss