Ross Byrne in line for Test debut against England
Gerry Thornley’s probable team: Schmidt is expected to make a number of changes
Ireland’s Ross Byrne during training at the pre-World Cup camp in Portugal. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ross Byrne is expected to be named for his full Test debut against England on Saturday, with Jack Carty on the bench, when Joe Schmidt announces the Irish team and replacements for the Twickenham warm-up game from the squad’s base in the Algarve on Thursday.
The Irish head coach has been obliged to fast-track the development of both Byrne and Carty in light of the ankle injury which has placed a doubt over Joey Carbery’s place in the World Cup squad.
Byrne appeared to have slipped down the pecking order in last season’s Six Nations, when Carty was called up as Johnny Sexton’s understudy after Carbery was sidelined with a hamstring problem and made three appearances off the bench before a fourth against Italy 12 days ago.
Byrne has been confined to two caps off the bench to date. The Leinster outhalf was one of three number 10s in a 31-man squad for the tour to Australia in 2018, but despite being named among the replacements in the third Test he remained unused.
Hence, he had to wait until the November match against Italy in Chicago to make his Test debut. He won a second cap as a first-half replacement for Darren Sweetnam in the Guinness Series finale against the USA in the Aviva Stadium.
Otherwise, Schmidt is set to unveil a much more familiar looking lineup, with a host of frontline players set to make their seasonal re-appearances, from the established first choice front-row of Cian Healy, captain Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong, to the back three of Jacob Stockdale, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls.
“There’ll definitely be a number of changes,” Schmidt had confirmed in the aftermath of the opening warm-up game against Italy last Saturday week. “I’m not sure there will be 15 but I’d say 10 will be a good starting point and it could be more. It will depend a little bit on how guys come through this. Potentially we want to see more of guys, but if we’ve already made our decision on someone they might just go Wales, Wales and in. But you’ll certainly see a number of changes.”
In the event, it could be that only Jean Kleyn and Garry Ringrose of that starting line-up are retained, which suggests the recently qualified South African-born lock is being strongly considered for a place in the 31-man squad. This in turn would mean 29 players will have started games in the opening two warm-up matches. Kleyn could be partnered by Iain Henderson, while other frontline players in line for a seasonal debut are Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Bundee Aki.
Ireland (possible) v England: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Ross Byrne, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Jean Kleyn, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.