Rory Best returns in strong Ireland side to take on Australia

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt moves Robbie Henshaw to outside centre to partner Gordon D'Arcy

Gerry Thornley and John O'Sullivan speaking after the Irish team announcement, preview the clash with Australia. Video: Daniel O'Connor

 

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made two changes to the team that beat South Africa in the opening November test match for Saturday’s final game against Australia at the Aviva stadium.

Rory Best, who was unavailable for the first two matches because of injury, returns to the frontrow at hooker, while Gordon D’Arcy, replaces the injured Jared Payne. D’Arcy lines out in his familiar inside centre role while Robbie Henshaw, who fulfilled that remit against the Springboks, shifts to the more familiar berth of outside centre.

Rhys Ruddock, who initially selected on the bench for the opening match in the series, came into the team on the morning of the South African match as the unfortunate Chris Henry took ill. The Leinster flanker retains the number seven jersey.

Cronin holds on

Micke McCarthy suffered concussion against Georgia and was therefore unavailable for selection for the Wallaby match as he observes return to play protocols so his place among the replacements is taken by Munster’s Dave Foley, who produced a man-of-the-match display last weekend.

Tommy O’Donnell, a late addition to the match squad from that Springbok test, and who started against Georgia is named on the bench. Only two players, tighthead prop Mike Ross and left wing Simon Zebo will start all three November tests. Sean Cronin has held off Leinster team-mate Richardt Strauss to take his place on the bench.

Schmidt has opted for experience and in essence a preferred pecking order in terms of close calls in selection. D’Arcy in winning his 81st cap, holds off the challenge of the gifted Stuart Olding, who returns to his play for Ulster tomorrow night in the Guinness Pro12.

Second Captains

A solid performance

The Leinster man was left out of the game against South Africa primarily because of injury considerations in that he could not train in the week prior to the week of that match. The understanding he enjoys with Jonathan Sexton should help Henshaw to settle into the role of outside centre.

Schmidt explained: “I don’t think you can ask too much more,” he said referring to the Connacht centre’s performance a fortnight ago.

“He (Henshaw) really delivered a really solid performance against South Africa. At 13 there are going to be some different challenges. There are a couple of challenges in personnel with (Israel) Folau coming through that midfield with (Tevita) Kurindrani and the wingers too.

“I do think there is going to be some traffic for Jonny (Sexton), Gordon (D’Arcy) and Robbie (Henshaw) to deal with and Robbie is also going to have to link with the winners is another challenge for him.”

A confidence booster

Ireland are looking for a third successive win but Schmidt is focused on performance rather than simply allowing the bottom line to be the arbiter of success.

“I think we really targeted just trying to improve performance by performance. If that was the outcome we could be reasonably satisfied with our work because to get either of those major southern hemisphere opponents, to be able to put them away would have been a real success for us.

“We will be disappointed if we don’t perform well and if we perform well, I think we have a chance. The one thing I’d say about the South Africans is that you can perform well and still not get over the line, because of the talent that they have.

“I think a win would grow some confidence and the players would get a bit of self belief from that. At the same time we try not to be too result focused (instead); try to remain very much performance and process focused.

Cronin and Strauss have both played well in the South Africa and Georgia matches respectively but Best has been Schmidt’s first choice hooker and now that he’s fully rehabilitated, he was always likely to return. The coach confirmed as much.

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, R Henshaw, G D’Arcy, S Zebo, J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O’Connell (capt); P O’Mahony, R Ruddock, J Heaslip. Replacements: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, R Ah You, D Foley, T O’Donnell, E Reddan, I Madigan, F Jones.

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