Chris Farrell one of five Ireland changes as Robbie Henshaw ruled out
Leinster man is the latest Ireland player to fall as Joe Schmidt’s options continue to thin
Chris Farrell during the Ireland training session at Carton House on Thursday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Six Nations: Scotland v Ireland
Kick off: 2.15pm. Venue: Murrayfield. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog begins at 1.30pm. On TV: Virgin Media and BBC One.
Robbie Henshaw has been pulled from the Ireland team to face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday with the starting XV showing five changes from the side that lost to England in last Saturday’s opener.
Henshaw was to shift from fullback to outside centre, after Garry Ringrose sustained a hamstring injury during last weekend’s 32-20 loss to England, but the Athlone man missed training at Carton House on Thursday and will be replaced in the 13 jersey by Munster’s Chris Farrell.
“Robbie just got a dead leg that hasn’t recovered sufficiently so we have to forge ahead,” Joe Schmidt explained. “It’s a pretty exciting opportunity for Chris Farrell. He stepped in once last year [against Argentina] and he got man of the match.”
Henshaw, Schmidt confirmed, sustained the damage against England.
“It was a knock on top of a knock, and some dead leg bleeding. He maybe could have played but if he gets another bump out of it maybe we need to make an early change. He took a part on Tuesday, didn’t train today.”
Jordan Larmour is retained on the bench with Rob Kearney returning at 15, for his 88th Ireland cap, while the backrow sees two changes as Josh van der Flier makes way for Seán O’Brien and Jack Conan comes in at number eight for the injured CJ Stander.
“Once Garry Ringrose was ruled out it was about trying to keep a bit of continuity and cohesiveness,” Schmidt explained of four enforced changes.
Quinn Roux will share the lineout calling with Peter O’Mahony as fellow Connacht lock Ultan Dillane is promoted to the bench.
The number of injured players is growing at a alarming rate with Henshaw joining Ringrose, three premier locks (Devin Toner, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson), Dan Leavy, Stander and two scrumhalves (Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath) as unavailable.
Munster loosehead Dave Kilcoyne is once again preferred ahead of Jack McGrath as cover for Cian Healy.
When asked about a need to find another way around opponents who slow Irish ball and block the kick chasers, Schmidt replied “Not many weeks go by when I don’t get a letter suggesting somebody should play here or there. A set play or suggesting something, and that’s when we are winning.
“When you lose you can expect people to say we need Plan A, B, C, D. I’m not sure how they summarise Plan A because we have a very varied game. We play strong off set piece, we play a varied kicking and attack game and we try to even vary our defensive game. I’ll leave them to do their analysis and we’ll keep trying to improve.
“There has been a better edge this week. Conor and Johnny hadn’t played together since Australia or played much at all. We don’t volunteer any excuses. Not many men slept well on Saturday night. It probably took us until today to get a spring back in our steps.”
Regarding the Ireland team bus arriving 46 minutes late to Murrayfield in 2017 Schmidt stated: “Quite how the policemen got lost will forever be a bit of a mystery for us.”
IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (capt), Tadhg Furlong; Quinn Roux, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Seán O’Brien, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Seán Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.