A couple of injuries across the Ireland team have forced Andy Farrell to make some changes ahead of Wales’ visit to the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.
Peter O’Mahony starts at blindside in place of Caelan Doris, with CJ Stander moving to No8, while uncapped Max Deegan is on the bench. In the backs, Robbie Henshaw replaces Garry Ringrose, with Keith Earls promoted to the bench.
While the win over Scotland last weekend pleased Farrell, particularly in light of the performance that Gregor Townsend’s side put it, there will be plenty of areas he will want to improve upon.
However, one thing that has concerned many supporters is that this starting XV is similar enough to the one that started against the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final – 11 players who started in Tokyo start here (13 started the World Cup win over Scotland in Yokohama).
This would not usually be a concern, except Ireland were comprehensively humbled by the All Blacks.
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Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton talk following Ireland’s 19-12 win over Scotland last weekend
Many expected this to be a new era under Farrell, but that has not necessarily been reflected in starting selection.
But the bench offers much more promise with rookie Deegan and one of the form players in Europe, John Cooney, who is at the centre of selection debate.
Hope I'm proven wrong but this pack, minus Best, got destroyed vs NZ. POM & CJ, granted both had good games last week, were completely outplayed by the Welsh back row less than a year ago. That Welsh 6-8 is arguably stronger now with Wainwright in and Faletau back. Disappointing.
— alan dooney (@alandooney) February 4, 2020
Besides a few on the bench, isn't thon pretty much the same team that got duffed in the RWC? Wales are gonna do a number on us. #TeamOfUs
— BigMaa (@BigMaSheep) February 4, 2020
Wales will be delighted to see so many familiar combinations against which they have had so much success.
— Zippy (@Zipperelda) February 4, 2020
It is not solely the personnel that let Ireland down at the RWC though, rather the hackneyed approach of former coach Joe Schmidt which was no longer bringing the success it did in 2018.
A change in style from Farrell may be all that is needed rather than wholesale changes to the squad.
Spot the difference ???
One is the team from 4 months ago that were embarrassed at the RWC & one is supposedly a new Ireland under a new coach.
Three changes, two of which are forced, one through injury & one through retirement.
This isn't a new era this is deja vu #IREvWAL pic.twitter.com/4xYC2Mp0TV
— Philip O'Reilly (@philthrill69) February 4, 2020
Bitterly disappointed with this team. Some of the same failings from 2019 still there and we are going to rinse and repeat. https://t.co/TQyFznKs90
— Neil Mulvey (@MulveyNeil) February 4, 2020
— Paul McErlean (@frenchninjapaul) February 4, 2020
'His unchallenged message is that his squad is dynamic, powerful and aggressive with a lot of skill and speed, a nice soundbite if rah-rah soundbites are your thing twelve-and-a-half weeks on from World Cup crucifixion by the All Blacks,' writes @heagneyl
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 16, 2020
While there were still some remnants in the way Ireland attacked from the Schmidt era against Scotland, namely the wrap-around for Johnny Sexton’s try, there were also changes in Ireland’s attacking structure.
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