Sunday 21 January 2018

Cian Healy held back as Joe Schmidt names strong side for England clash

Cian Healy
Cian Healy
Rory Best

Rory Best will make his first start of the season against England at Twickenham on Saturday after Joe Schmidt made seven changes to the side that lost to Wales last weekend.

It is the strongest side that Schmidt has named over the summer for what is the final warm-up before the World Cup begins.

Best is one of four changes to the pack as Schmidt looks to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since he took over as coach.

Mike Ross returns in the front-row alongside Best and Jack McGrath who will look to continue his impressive form.

Cian Healy fails to make the bench and will go to the World Cup without having played a single minute of rugby in pre-season. Tadhg Furlong will provide cover at loosehead.

Devin Toner partners Paul O’Connell in s familiar looking second-row while Sean O’Brien returns to the starting XV in place of Jordi Murphy.

Having lined out for Ulster last weekend, Tommy Bowe gets a chance to remind Schmidt of his quality on the right wing. Similarly, Simon Zebo who was man of the match against Scotland last month, will be eager to impress at full-back. Dave Kearney gets another run out on the left wing and a good performance would see him in pole position to start at the World Cup.

Jared Payne comes back into the side to renew his centre partnership with Robbie Henshaw with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton doing the same at half-back.

Donnacha Ryan and Chris Henry will both be hoping to make an impression from the bench while Darren Cave is also included.

Ireland - S Zebo; T Bowe, R Henshaw, J Payne, D Kearney; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; D Toner, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip. Reps – R Strauss, T Furlong, N White, D Ryan, C Henry, E Reddan, I Madigan, D Cave.

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