"He's an absolute athlete" - Possible call-ups to Ireland bench for New Zealand
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"He is more dynamic"
Ahead of the latest biggest game of his coaching career Andy Farrell has been thrown by a few injury issues for Saturday's clash with New Zealand. Should Farrell lose two or three from his frontline squad, calling upon the likes of Ryan Baird and Stuart McCloskey is a real plus of this Ireland side.
As we are all keenly aware on this isle, Ireland have never gone past the World Cup quarter final stages. It is a dozen years since the nation last felt quietly confident going into a last eight encounter. Many of us felt we could beat Argentina, in 2015, but were wary of injuries and suspensions... and were proved right. No-one was getting ahead of themselves before Ireland vs. New Zealand, in 2019, and the ABs bopped us 46-14.
This Ireland team, under Farrell, looked dialled in, though, and are embracing the pressure that comes with any sort of quarter final clash. Ireland have looked the most consistent of all World Cup teams, and have shown different ways of working out teams.
On House of Rugby, former Ireland stars Shane Byrne and Lindsay Peat mulled over the big selection calls, with Byrne advocating for 'an absolute athlete' to be drafted in.
Possible changes to Ireland's squad
Ireland may have topped Pool B but the victory came with injuries sustained for James Ryan (wrist), Mack Hansen (calf) and James Lowe (eye). Of that trio, Lowe seems the best bet to feature against the All Blacks.
Iain Henderson should retain his starting spot in the Ireland second row but Shane Byrne is keen to draft in Ryan Baird if the wrist injury to James Ryan keeps him from the fray. "It's going to be interesting to see because it is the wrist again, with James, and the other wrist," he noted. "Hopefully that is not a flaw or a weakness there.
"If you have Henderson starting then who are you going to bring in [as replacement lock]?" asked Lindsay Peat. "You have Joe McCarthy, who is an absolute man mountain, then Ryan Baird, who is more dynamic.
"I think if we are going to move the All Blacks around so we can create space, we'd want really quick ball and as dynamic runner. I'd probably have Baird on the bench."
"Definitely," Byrne agreed. "Joe is great, and this is nothing against him. I just think Ryan is an absolute athlete. When you want the game to be raised up, call on him. Ireland, at no point, will be looking to just close the game down. It's just not what we do. Baird is just superb off the bench."
Elsewhere, while both myself and Lindsay Peat advocated for Jimmy O'Brien or Keith Earls covering the wings, should Hansen and Lowe both pass fitness markers, Byrne reckons Andy Farrell will go for a centre.
"Farrell likes picking a replacement centre," Byrne noted. "It is all around his defensive mind-set, as well. He doesn't want someone that can play centre. He wants a dedicated centre."
If that is the way the cards fall, we could see Stuart McCloskey or a fit again Robbie Henshaw in that 23 jersey for Saturday's clash in Paris.
HOUSE OF RUGBY WITH SHANE BYRNE & LINDSAY PEAT
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