Joe Schmidt has rung the changes for part two of Ireland’s tour in Argentina. Find out more about the team below…
JOE SCHMIDT has reinforced his team with Leinster’s RaboDirect Pro12 winners for Ireland’s second Test against Argentina on Saturday. Schmidt had always intended to give all of the 29 players on tour a run in one of the match day squads, so changes were fully expected, and he added: “There’s been a lot of travelling on tour so the fresh guys will give the team a little bit of a boost.”
In the midfield, Darren Cave will start at inside centre at the Estadio Jose Fierro in Tucuman. Cave made more metres than anyone else on the pitch last week with 95, and though he missed a couple of tackles Schmidt’s intention was always to give him a run out at 12. The versatile Fergus McFadden will start at 13, and Schmidt said: “Never in an international do you start with 15 and not make changes. We see it as an advantage going forward to have a player like Fergus who can fill many positions.
“There’s been some precaution taken with Luke (Marshall) but before the tour we always wanted to look at Darren at 12. Robbie Henshaw didn’t make it, but we’d thought about that combination.”
Rob Kearney has returned to the full-back position, having recovered from the RaboDirect Pro12 final 10 days ago, and Andrew Trimble and Simon Zebo retain their places on the wing. Schmidt praised Zebo’s tackle accuracy – he made nine tackles and missed one in last week’s Test – while posing a threat while carrying the ball, though stressed that the Munster wing still had areas that needed to sharpen up. Johnny Sexton has retained his place at fly-half, and will start alongside former Leinster team-mate Eoin Reddan, with Conor Murray, who suffered a dead leg in last week’s game, dropping to the bench.
In the pack, Dave Kilcoyne will win his second Test start at loosehead, alongside Rory Best and Mike Ross. Jack McGrath drops to the bench as tighthead cover, and Schmidt said: “Jack’s played tighthead in the AIL and has trained incredibly well at tighthead this week. It also gives James Cronin a window of opportunity.” Cronin will earn his first cap on Saturday having missed out on a spot in the 23 last week.
The Six Nations winning partnership of Devin Toner and captain Paul O’Connell will be reunited on Saturday, and O’Connell said: “I’ve only played with Dev since he’s been an established international, and he has a calm head. He calls the lineouts at Leinster, so every game he’ll call two or three of the lineouts. Wherever Dev goes teams tend to stay away from because of his height, and he’s quick for a big man. His ball carrying is something for other second rows to aspire to, and he’s another set of eyes on the pitch for me.”
Robbie Diack, who made ten tackles and stole two lineouts in Resistencia last weekend, is unlucky not to be included in this week’s 23, but he gives way to Rhys Ruddock who steps in at six alongside Chris Henry and Jamie Heaslip. The Leinster No 8 and Ireland vice-captain has only come off the bench twice for his country in 66 Tests, and said of the experience: “I found it tougher to prepare coming off the bench, because I’ve done it for Leinster a good few times and found it different but not hard, but on Saturday it was different and harder coming off the bench for Ireland.”
Ireland XV to face Argentina: Rob Kearney; Andrew Trimble, Fergus McFadden, Darren Cave, Simon Zebo; Johnny Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Dave Kilcoyne, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell (capt), Rhys Ruddock, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip.
Ireland reps: Rob Herring, James Cronin, Jack McGrath, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Conor Murray, Ian Madigan, Noel Reid.
Click here to watch highlights from last week’s game