The Ireland XV that should start the World Cup against Scotland 1 week ago

The Ireland XV that should start the World Cup against Scotland

What a difference two games make.

Two weeks ago, the nation was close to meltdown, and with fair reason. Ireland had suffered their heaviest ever loss to England [57-15], a stack of senior players were way off form and the likes of Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls were still a fortnight away from their first games of the season.

Wales, thankfully, opted to go with their fringe and squad players against Ireland, in Cardiff, and Joe Schmidt's side looked a lot tighter in getting the win. On Saturday, at the Aviva Stadium, both Schmidt and Wales coach Warren Gatland fielded strong XVs in what would be the teams' final World Cup warm-up.

Ireland built on that Cardiff performance and were deserving 19-10 victors over the Grand Slam champions. James Ryan was named the official man of the match but three or four of his teammates pushed him close.

With Ireland and the rest of the World Cup sides officially confirming their 31-man travelling squads, to World Rugby, over the next 24 hours, we are now into the serious stuff.

Ireland fly out to Japan on Wednesday and will have nine days to get over jet-lag and acclimatise in humid Japanese conditions. Their first game in their pool is against Scotland and the starting XV is taking shape.

Cian Healy is now facing a genuine fight with Dave Kilcoyne for his No.1 jersey but we expect Schmidt to hold the Munster loosehead in reserve, for the opener at least. Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong will complete the front row and the second row will be Iain Henderson and James Ryan.

The back row is a tougher call, what with Peter O'Mahony looking good at openside in Cardiff, but we feel Josh van der Flier will get the No.7 jersey after a fine outing against the Welsh this weekend. The half pack pairing will be Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton.

With Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw looking good in midfield, the big call will be the right wing. Keith Earls' knee issues and lack of game-time give us the sense that Andrew Conway will get the nod ahead of Jordan Larmour for the opener.

Our Ireland team to face Scotland

1. Cian Healy (Leinster)
2. Rory Best (Ulster)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)

4. Iain Henderson (Ulster)
5. James Ryan (Leinster)

6. Peter O'Mahony (Munster)
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
8. CJ Stander (Munster)

9. Conor Murray (Munster)
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster)

11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
14. Andrew Conway (Munster)

15. Rob Kearney (Leinster)

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Jean Kleyn, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Jack Carty, Garry Ringrose.