Simon Zebo given further chance to stake full-back claim
Cork winger selected ahead of Rob Kearney for Saturday’s game against England
Simon Zebo gets the opportunity to prepare to become Ireland’s first choice fullback at Twickenham this Saturday.
“Rob Kearney has a bruise on his knee but he trained fully and we could have picked him,” said Joe Schmidt.
A fit Kearney will keep the jersey come the World Cup opener against Canada on September 19th but the Cork winger impressed at 15 against Scotland. Zebo also brings a creativity that Ireland profited from during last month’s victory over Wales in Cardiff when setting up the since dropped Felix Jones try.
Kearney is not included in the squad to face England while his brother Dave switches to left wing.
“It was important to give Simon more time at fullback once we decided he was going to cover it for us,” Schmidt continued.
“We also felt Dave Kearney and Tommy Bowe needed the game.”
Cian Healy was not deemed ready to feature after neck surgery in May but that allows Joe Schmidt to experiment. Turns out Tadhg Furlong is a loosehead prop. Or, as Joe Schmidt noted, he is young enough in his development as a tighthead to switch back to where he played at underage.
Furlong, the only major surprise in Ireland’s World Cup squad, duly covers Jack McGrath on the bench. The other interesting call is Cave, ahead of veterans Andrew Trimble and Gordon D’Arcy, in the 31 man panel. The Ulster centre wears number 23 against the tournament hosts.
Donnacha Ryan provides cover at lock behind Devin Toner as Iain Henderson is not included, Richardt Strauss at hooker behind Rory Best and Nathan White’s importance to Ireland should be examined when Mike Ross clocks out.
“We thought about putting Luke Fitzgerald, who trained fully, or Rob on the bench but Darren Cave has had the least amount of game time because with Jared and Robbie we can always drop someone else back to fullback.”
Also, don’t be surprised to see Ian Madigan play a few minutes at scrumhalf. Just in case.
Jordi Murphy, among others, has been rested this weekend.
Ireland: Simon Zebo; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell (capt); Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Tadhg Furlong, Nathan White, Donnacha Ryan, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Darren Cave.
England: M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), B Barritt (Saracens), J May (Gloucester); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester), D Cole (Leicester); C Lawes (Northampton), G Parling (Exeter); T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Gloucester).
Replacements: J George (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), K Brookes (Northampton), J Launchbury (Wasps), B Vunipola (Saracens), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens), S Burgess (Bath).