Henderson unleashed, Healy returns and more Ireland XV talking points

Henderson unleashed, Healy returns and more Ireland XV talking points

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt this afternoon named his team to face Canada in Saturday’s World Cup opener at the Millennium Stadium (KO 2.30pm).

See the full matchday squad here.

Fitzgerald in midfield

With Robbie Henshaw missing out due to injury, the expectation would have been that Darren Cave would start at inside centre. Schmidt has previously stated that his decision to include the Ulsterman in his World Cup squad was to cover such possibilities.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Instead, Luke Fitzgerald is handed a starting berth in the 12 jersey, having worn the 13 shirt against Wales late last month.

The Leinster man previously wore Ireland’s 12 shirt in 2008, but the majority of his rugby in more recent times has been on the wing, where he was expected to feature at this World Cup.

Cave is likely to be disappointed not to step into Henshaw’s direct-running role, while the Irish management will be eager to ensure their talented 22-year-old returns to full health as soon as possible.

His performances for Ireland in the 2015 Six Nations underlined that he could make a major impact on this World Cup.

Healy is ready

The loosehead prop has been through worrying times since his neck surgery last season, but his positive attitude and diligent rehab work mean Healy is now ready to make his Ireland return.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 27-year-old has been training fully with Ireland for some weeks now, building his strength in contact and at scrum time, and convincing both the medical team and Schmidt that he can handle the collisions of a Test match.

Getting Healy up to speed in time for the Pool D meeting with France looks to be a priority. His proven world-class quality when he is in peak physical condition would add massively to Ireland’s ambitions at this World Cup.

Henderson unleashed

This has been coming for a some time now. Schmidt and his coaching staff couldn’t ignore Iain Henderson’s starting claims any longer.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Devin Toner is the unlucky man to miss out, his performances for Ireland in the 2014 and 2015 Six Nations triumphs having been outstanding. Such is life at a World Cup, and Schmidt has never been anything but ruthless when required.

Henderson adds hugely to Ireland’s ball-carrying strength, his combination of footwork and explosive power making him a gainline merchant. Looking towards the physical challenges of Italy and France, that could be vital for Ireland.

The 23-year-old has been steadily and impressively improving at the set-piece all the time too, adding the nuts and bolts of second row play to his athletic strengths. His counter-rucking is on another level.

This is one selection that most Ireland fans will be delighted with. Now Henderson must ensure he makes the jersey his own.

Earls and Kearney out wide

Perhaps the most competitive area in terms of Schmidt finalising his 31-man squad for this World Cup, the selection decisions out wide were always going to be tight and will remain so for the remainder of the tournament.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Dave Kearney, the in-form wing, and Keith Earls get the first shots out wide in this game. Earls scored five tries at the last World Cup and looks a good bet to add a few more, while Kearney’s current performance level promises so much.

Tommy Bowe is absent from the squad altogether, with Simon Zebo’s ability to cover wing and fullback making him the ideal bench option for this game and possibly later in the competition too.

Schmidt is almost certain to make wholesale changes for the Romania game so Kearney and Earls will be aware that their every involvement must be effective on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium.

Bench options

It’s an exciting Ireland bench, even ignoring the presence of the powerful Healy. Nathan White will look to win cap number four as a replacement for Mike Ross, while Sean Cronin’s dynamism is tailor-made for the final quarter of this game.

Donnacha Ryan’s impressive display off the bench against England, when he was involved in preventing two tries for the home team, earns him another shot as his form continues to grow.

Eoin Reddan is again ideal for adding tempo if and when the Canadians tire late on, while Ian Madigan is in a similar boat. Zebo’s attacking skills and ever-growing connection with Madigan offer even more attacking possibilities.

All of the men mentioned here will hope to start the next Ireland game against the Romanians, but right now the focus, as always, is on ensuring Schmidt’s Ireland can deliver a complete 80-minute display to start the World Cup on the right foot.

Irishman Hanratty thriving in Canada with Schmidt’s words in mindSean O’Brien hungry to dominate the rucks for Ireland at the World Cup

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