Rugby World Cup quarter-final: Ireland v New Zealand - Ireland player profiles

Patrick Madden looks at Joe Schmidt’s side as they face down the world champions

 Johnny Sexton has again showed how vital he is to Ireland’s cause on the pitch during thei Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Hiroshi Yamamura/EPA

Johnny Sexton has again showed how vital he is to Ireland’s cause on the pitch during thei Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Hiroshi Yamamura/EPA

 

15 Rob Kearney (Leinster)
Age: 33
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 95kg (14st, 11lbs)
Caps: 94
After going nearly four years without a try, Kearney is now scoring for fun, with one in each of his last three Tests – including the wins over Japan and Russia.

14 Keith Earls (Munster)
Age: 32
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 87kg (13st 9lbs)
Caps: 81
Andrew Conway has been having all the fun with Earls yet to cross the whitewash at this World Cup – this would be a good time to add to his eight tries at previous tournaments.

13 Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
Age: 24
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 94kg (14st 11lbs)
Caps: 27
Ringrose returns to the fold refreshed after earning his rest against Samoa. His defensive work in midfield will be crucial in a match where Ireland have to be word perfect.

Robbie Henshaw will join Garry Ringrose in Ireland’s midfield for the game against New Zealand. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Robbie Henshaw will join Garry Ringrose in Ireland’s midfield for the game against New Zealand. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

12 Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
Age: 26
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 103kg (16st, 3lbs)
Caps: 39
The obvious choice after Bundee Aki’s suspension, Henshaw will have come on for his run out against Samoa and can make up for missing last November’s win due to injury.

11 Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)
Age: 23
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 103kg (16st, 3lbs )
Caps: 24
Ireland’s trump card has been quiet in Japan but he is capable of producing the moment of magic needed to slay the beast – just as he did last year.

10 Johnny Sexton (Leinster)
Age: 34
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 92kg (14st, 5lbs)
Caps: 87
If this World Cup has shown us anything it’s how utterly dependent Ireland remain on their talisman – if he produces a generational performance, then New Zealand are beatable.

9 Conor Murray (Munster)
Age: 30
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 93kg (14st, 7lbs)
Caps: 77
Murray is creeping back towards his best, and lines out alongside Sexton for a record 56th time. His kicking must be faultless, so too his marshalling of the pack.

1 Cian Healy (Leinster)
Age: 32
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 112kg (17st, 7lbs)
Caps: 94
Ireland’s loosehead war horse needs to carry, tackle and hit relentlessly for 50 minutes before Schmidt calls for reinforcements – it’s a role he performs with aplomb.

2 Rory Best (Ulster, captain)
Age: 37
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 106kg (16st, 7lbs)
Caps: 123
This could be the end. Best’s lineout throwing needs to be clinical but his management of referee Nigel Owens could make or break Ireland’s challenge in Tokyo.

3 Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
Age: 26
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 119kg (18st, 8lbs)
Caps: 40
Furlong heads into battle with the All Blacks for a seventh time, looking for a fourth victory. One of Ireland’s X-factor players, as his try against Samoa proved.

4 Iain Henderson
Age: 27
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 117kg (18st, 4lbs)
Caps: 52
If Ireland are to beat New Zealand then Henderson must have the game of his life. There will be plenty of carrying and tackling to be done but the lineout must also operate seamlessly.

James Ryan’s strength will be required against the All Blacks in Tokyo. photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images
James Ryan’s strength will be required against the All Blacks in Tokyo. photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images

5 James Ryan (Leinster)
Age: 23
Height: 6’8”
Weight: 113kg (17st, 9lbs)
Caps: 22
Ryan remains a force of nature and is one of Ireland’s few physical specimens, able to generate go forward ball out of nowhere. His partnership with Henderson is blossoming in Japan.

6 Peter O’Mahony (Munster)
Age: 30
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 107kg (16st, 9lbs)
Caps: 63
O’Mahony has featured in every match in Japan and will need to be at his tireless best on Saturday. His try-saving interception last November – cutting off a Beauden Barrett grubber – lives long in the memory.

7 Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
Age: 26
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 98kg (15st, 5lbs)
Caps: 22
 Van Der Flier was superb against Samoa – the number seven jersey has never fitted him so well. He must scavenge and tackle like a man possessed against the All Blacks.

8 CJ Stander (Munster)
Age: 29
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 114kg (17st, 11lbs)
Caps: 37
Stander has Terminator style levels of durability and has carried the ball on 58 occasions across Ireland’s four pool matches in the tournament – the second highest in the competition tournament after Fiji’s Semi Radradra.

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