Ireland XV that should start against Samoa to secure quarter final
Keith Earls and Chris Farrell, please accept our apologies.
One hopes the Irish World Cup squad are, this weekend, far away from a training pitch and clearing their head of rugby thoughts. Come Monday morning, Ireland Samoa comes into view.
A win over the Pacific Islanders should confirm a last eight slot but a bonus point victory would make them bullet-proof ahead of Japan's game, next Sunday, against Scotland.
The 35-0 win for Joe Schmidt's men over Russia, on Thursday, was less than convincing but a handful of players thrust their hand up for selection next weekend. Rhys Ruddock was the star man - in attack and defence - and that should be enough, at the very least, for a spot on the bench against Samoa.
Elsewhere, Dave Kilcoyne and Tadhg Beirne were the other forwards that impressed while Andrew Conway was lively and assured and Johnny Sexton ran the show for the opening 40 minutes.
Looking ahead to Samoa, most of the team selections will come from the XVs that started the opening two games in Pool A. While a host of senior players underperformed against Japan, Schmidt will back them to replicate the ferocity and intent they displayed against Scotland in their tournament opener.
The big call here will be where to fit the in-form Conway into the backline. To us, he edges out Keith Earls - saver of that losing bonus point agsainst Japan - with Garry Ringrose bumping the Munster man and Jordan Larmour off the bench.
The other backline shout sees the midfield partnership of Bundee Aki and [if fully fit] Robbie Henshaw reunited. Schmidt's first-choice midfield will get one game to prove they have what it takes to stay on there for the knock-out stages. That is harsh on Chris Farrell but he misses out as he has never partnered Henshaw before and a new combination is unlikely mid-tournament.
Elsewhere, the Irish pack is likely to remain the same that blew Scotland away and started well against Japan before completely running out of oomph.
The usual suspects on the bench with Joey Carbery hopefully fit enough to take his place among the replacements.
Our Ireland XV to face Russia
15. Rob Kearney
14. Andrew Conway
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray
1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Joey Carbery, Garry Ringrose.
The Ireland vs. Samoa game takes place at 11:45am (Irish time) on Saturday, October 12.
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