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09th Oct 2023

Our strongest Ireland team to face New Zealand and make World Cup history

Patrick McCarry

Ireland team

“James Ryan is seeing a specialist and we are hoping for better news than we (first) anticipated.”

The Ireland team are back at it, following their weekend win over Scotland, and preparing for their latest crack at World Cup history.

On this 10th staging of the Rugby World Cup, Ireland are seeking to make it to the promised land of the final four, and beyond. The closest they got, going all the way back to 1987, were quarter finals against Australia (1991) and Wales (2011). Their last time out was against New Zealand, in 2019, and they took a hellacious beating that left scars for at least 12 months.

Andy Farrell inherited a side from Joe Schmidt that had only been World Rugby Team of the Year, in 2018, but were shredded of any spark and confidence. Farrell took a full year to put Ireland back on smoother seas, and his ideas, tactics, coaching additions and player selections really started to pay off from 2021.

Now comfortably atop the world rankings, on a 17-match winning streak and favourites for a World Cup encounter with the All Blacks (who thought we’d see the day?), Ireland are faced with some injury issues ahead of a huge game in Paris, this Saturday.

Ireland team

The strongest Ireland team available

The Monday morning update from Ireland team manager Mick Kearney revealed that James Ryan was visiting a specialist, today [Monday], to have his injured wrist looked at.

Ryan was not able to train fully, for a few sessions, after the win over South Africa and dropped to the bench for the Scotland game. He replaced Tadhg Beirne after 48 minutes, on Saturday, but required lengthy treatment during the second half before managing to finish out the game.

As of today, Ryan is still in Ireland’s World Cup squad and will hope there is a road back to featuring in the knock-out stages. The news on Mack Hansen and James Lowe is still in that grey-area – hopeful but wait-and-see – while Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls [hamstring issues] both got through some running drills on Sunday.

Right now, Ireland will have to plan for Iain Henderson starting against New Zealand. As fall-back options go, Henderson is a beauty. He performed excellently against the Scots and will massively aid the lineout and scrum against the ABs.

On the wings, this may be touch and go but the safest option would be to have someone like Keith Earls or Jimmy O’Brien as bench cover. On Saturday, Ireland ended up with Jamison Gibson-Park on one wing and Garry Ringrose on the other. You can get away with that against Scotland but New Zealand are a different matter.

It feels risky cover Mack Hansen (calf) and James Lowe (eye) with Earls, who is having hamstring niggles, so there is a strong argument for O’Brien to wear jersey No.23. He can cover both wings, fullback and has 10 professional starts at outside centre. He played centre on his Test debut against South Africa, when replacing the injured Stuart McCloskey in the first half.

We have selected what we feel is Ireland’s strongest team (below) but with alternatives for starting positions and bench roles, should injury issues bleed into the full week.

STRONGEST IRELAND TEAM (vs. NEW ZEALAND)

15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen/Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. James Lowe/Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Andrew Porter
2.Dan Sheehan
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. Iain Henderson
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, David Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, James Ryan/Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Keith Earls/Jimmy O’Brien.

Andy Farrell will name his full Ireland team, and replacements, on Thursday afternoon.

HOUSE OF RUGBY WITH SHANE BYRNE & LINDSAY PEAT

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