Reddan replaces Murray as Schmidt rings changes

Leinster scrumhalf gets the nod for Australia game, D’Arcy loses out to Luke Marshall

Eoin Reddan will replace Conor Murray against Australia. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Eoin Reddan will replace Conor Murray against Australia. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Nobody is safe in camp Ireland.

The zippy service of Eoin Reddan, a ball playing Luke Marshall and Devin Toner rubberstamped as one of the inner circle; it certainly has the mark of a Joe Schmidt team.

So difficult to read, the Ireland coach has made six changes to face the Wallabies on Saturday evening at the Aviva stadium.

Reddan replacing Conor Murray at scrumhalf is the biggest surprise of all but, then again, it isn’t really. Schmidt consistently rotated the more imposing Isaac Boss with Reddan when Leinster coach.

With that in mind, Murray looks a good bet to appear on the hour mark and start against New Zealand.

The Marshall for Gordon D’Arcy call, while significant, is a form selection based primarily on the 22-year-old Ulsterman’s impressively widened frame after a summer lay off due to concussion, and his offloading skills on the gainline.

D’Arcy has the weekend off as 20-year-old Robbie Henshaw can cover more positions from the bench.

The other changes were predictable and expected.

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Jonathan Sexton comes in for Paddy Jackson at 10 with Schmidt keeping the public and the players guessing about the pecking order by keeping Ian Madigan on the bench and dropping the Ulster outhalf.

Seán O’Brien comes in for the hamstrung Chris Henry at openside flanker with yet another Schmidt favourite, Kevin McLaughlin, promoted to the bench.

Paul O’Connell comes into the secondrow for Mike McCarthy, so the presumption is he will be pushing behind Mike Ross with Toner changing jersey but little else.

With so many options, how they work the lineout will be fascinating.

“We’ll mix and match it,” said O’Connell when asked who will be making the calls.

Either way, a full frontal attack on the Wallaby towers off Stephen Moore’s throw looks guaranteed.

The last, but by no means least, alteration sees Cian Healy back for cap number 41. Hell hath no fury like our best prop scorned.

Dislodged debutant against Samoan Jack McGrath recently described his Leinster teammate as the best loosehead in the world.

All told, it seems like Schmidt is priming his squad for the greatest challenge of all come Sunday week, against the mighty but hopefully fatigued All Blacks (their most capped side runs out at Twickenham on Saturday), and the Six Nations.

The bench supports this theory. Stephen Archer usurps Declan Fitzpatrick at tighthead to keep that merry-go-round a turning while Henshaw, the great white hope once Brian O’Driscoll disappears over the horizon, gets the number 23 jersey ahead of Dave Kearney.

Not even two tries on a debut is enough to keep a player in a Schmidt squad.

Everyone is on high alert now.

Ireland (v Australia): Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Marshall, Fergus McFadden; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell; Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Stephen Archer, Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, Conor Murray, Ian Madigan, Robbie Henshaw.

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