Joe Schmidt opts for experience in New Zealand clash; creativity remains McCarthy’s problem
The Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the Rugby World Cup with The Irish Times sports team
Ireland doctor Ciaran Cosgrave with Keith Earls during training ahead of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand. Photo: Billy Stickland /Inpho
The task is now very clear for Ireland. The 15 players who will start in possibly the biggest match in Irish rugby history on Saturday have been named and Joe Schmidt has opted for experience. Rob Kearney and Peter O’Mahony have both come into the team that will line out to face the Haka on Saturday morning. Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour will perhaps feel unlucky to miss out but in playing O’Mahony, Schmidt has opted for the same trio of loose forwards that started the victory over New Zealand last November. The odds may be stacked against Ireland but the fact that 12 of the team that started that match in Dublin last year will start in Tokyo on Saturday is a major boost. They know what’s needed to beat the back-to-back world champions. Joe Schmidt’s pre-match press conference is currently ongoing and we will have plenty more from it on our Rugby World Cup website shortly. As for Ireland’s opponents, Brodie Retallick returns to start in what is a pretty fearsome lineup as Steve Hansen goes all guns blazing for this Tokyo showdown. The scrumhalf Aaron Smith and the centre Jack Goodhue are the only starting backs who survive from Dublin while Beauden Barrett will start at fullback.
Keith Earls will play a key part on Saturday morning as always and yesterday he spoke to Gerry Thornley about how he has learned to deal with the pressure of his craft and control the nervous energy that used to plague him. The Moyross man spoke yesterday of how he felt in the leadup to the final pool game against France four years ago. “I felt violently ill all week going into it. It was ridiculous. After that game I said to myself I’d never leave myself get to that stage again. My wife thought I was going to have a heart attack with the state I was in and I’ve learned to deal with that.” One Irishman who has already flown home is Conor O’Shea but before he did he spoke to Gavin Cummiskey about the disappointment of a three-year project at Italy coming to an end due to a typhoon and a “stupid” act of foul play. He also believes that Ireland can pull it off on Saturday. “Ireland have the physicality and the defensive mindset to be able to challenge this All Black side. If the weather is iffy on Saturday, which it is due to be, it limits the amount of offloading,” he says. In other news, Seán Cronin has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a neck injury to be replaced by Rob Herring while Ireland have also confirmed that they will not appeal Bundee Aki’s suspension. And finally, Eddie Jones has sprung a surprise with his selection of Owen Farrell ahead of George Ford for their last eight meeting with Australia.