Joe Schmidt set to go for same again against England
Ireland coach to name unchanged side for Triple Crown decider
Iain Henderson: Ulster forward is likely to come onto the bench in place of the injured Dan Tuohy. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Joe Schmidt is expected to retain faith in the starting XV which kicked off the handsome win over Wales by naming an unchanged side for Saturday’s Six Nations encounter against England at Twickenham at lunchtime today.
The Ireland coach had spoken aloud of the need to develop the squad’s strength in depth and look to rotate the team a little in this championship, and to a degree that may partially have explained why Schmidt opted for Luke Marshall in the opening win at home to Scotland before reverting to Gordon D’Arcy as Brian O’Driscoll’s midfield partner against Wales.
But apart from that voluntary switch, the only alteration to his starting XV to date was the enforced call-up for Dan Tuohy against Scotland due to Paul O’Connell suffering a chest infection the night before that game. Otherwise, in part thanks to a relatively low injury profile, 13 of the team appear set to start their third match out of three.
Ireland are obliged to make at least one alteration on the bench due to Tuohy being sidelined with the fractured forearm he sustained after replacing O’Connell before the hour mark against Wales. The likeliest beneficiary would appear to be Iain Henderson given that, unlike Donnacha Ryan, he has been in the squad since the outset and familiarity with the attention to detail under Schmidt clearly matters. Henderson can also cover blindside flanker as well as lock.
Admittedly, Ryan has a proven record of hitting the ground running after an injury lay-off, and achieved his highest GPS score of the season in his 67 minute comeback for Munster last Saturday night against Zebre. However, Ryan was spotted at the University of Limerick yesterday, which would seem to add to the word that he had not made the cut for Twickenham.
While Schmidt might well have been of a mind at the outset to mix up his selections, as appears to be his natural inclination if possible, the convincing nature of the opening two wins, particularly the improved performance against Wales and now with the prize of a Triple Crown not to mention a shot at the title, his elbow room has been reduced.
Speaking on 2fm last night, Ronan O’Gara noted Schmidt’s tendency to keep players on their toes, but countered: “There’s a level of trust and security as well so he has that balance at the minute and no-one is smug. You can see that in their work-rate.” He added that it would be true to type for Schmidt to shuffle his deck on the bench at least.
Perhaps significantly too, Les Kiss highlighted some defensive glitches when the replacements were introduced to close out the game against Wales. Hence it would be no surprise if there were a surprise or two, but in any event, all will revealed at lunchtime.