Robbie Henshaw may miss out after Bundee Aki's World Cup ban
'The tackle was an attempted dominant tackle, rather than a reactionary tackle'.
There were seven bullet-points accompanying the decision - announced by World Rugby today - to hand down a three week ban [reduced from six] to Ireland centre Bundee Aki. The decision could have a knock-on effect for Robbie Henshaw.
Aki will miss however long left Ireland have at the World Cup after his red card against Samoa at the weekend. Ireland went on to win 47-5 to reach the quarter final but Aki is likely to be heading home even if New Zealand are overcome in the last eight. He could even fly out before.
With no replacements allowed for banned players, that leaves Joe Schmidt with three centres to choose from for the All Blacks encounter. Loathe as Schmidt may be to do it, the form selection means Robbie Henshaw may well miss out.
Before the Ireland squad even headed out to Japan, Andrew Trimble was proposing a Farrell-Ringrose partnership in the Irish midfield. On Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, the former Ireland star commented:
"I thought Chris Farrell was unbelievable [against Italy]. I thought the centre partnership was excellent, and I don’t think they’ve played together before... Ringrose was unbelievably brilliant. That’s no surprise as he’s always brilliant, to be fair. But it’s the first time that I’ve thought that that 12/13 combination could potentially be the one."
Trimble, Barry Murphy and Jerry Flannery spoke about that Aki tackle and Ireland's playing style on the latest House of Rugby episode (below).
Robbie Henshaw played his first game of the 2019/20 season when Ireland faced Wales in their final World Cup warm-up game, back in early September. Paired in midfield with Bundee Aki, he had a fine game and allayed any doubts that he may not be fit for the upcoming tournament.
Within a week of Ireland's arrival in Japan, though, Henshaw had tweaked a hamstring and he missed the first three games of the pool stages. In the interim, with Aki going off early with a head knock in the opener, Chris Farrell and Garry Ringrose looked good when paired together.
Farrell looked the part against Scotland and Japan while Ringrose played all 80 minutes of the first three pool games and looked Ireland's most dangerous back.
XV - Based on our unique scoring system here is @OptaJonny's 'Team of the Pool Stage' for #RWC2019, the scores are based on a per 80 mins rate with a minimum of 160 minutes required to make the cut; @JakePolledri had the highest score of any player. Selection. pic.twitter.com/6H7Zr90f77
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 14, 2019
Joe Schmidt faces similar calls regarding trusted lietenants Peter O'Mahony, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney, but Henshaw's place in the Starting XV is by no means assured.
The form centres are Farrell and Ringrose and that combination may well cause issues for the All Blacks in Tokyo, on Saturday. Schmidt msy yet opt to overlook Henshaw's rusty return, against Samoa, and pair him with Leinster teammate Ringrose but it would be an extremely harsh call on Farrell.
We do not envy Schmidt's big selection calls over the coming days.
The Ireland vs. New Zealand game takes place at 11:15am (Irish time) on Saturday, October 19.
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The latest episode sees Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery look ahead to the World Cup quarter finals, the Bundee Aki red card, a possible Ireland team and talk Joker.