Ireland taking no chances with Canada in World Cup

Rob Kearney has replaced Simon Zebo at fullback

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has taken no chances in his selections and named
a near first-choice team for their Rugby World Cup opener against Canada at
Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Schmidt’s Ireland team will start the World Cup on a less than ideal footing
as they have lost their last two matches and dropped from second in the world
rankings to out of the top five.

One player that Schmidt was unable to select was star centre Robbie Henshaw
who will miss he Canada game after picking up a slight hamstring injury.

Facing what Schmidt said would likely be the danger of free-running, often
sevens-trained backs and a solid forward power base centred around his former
Clermont charge and Canada captain Jamie Cudmore, the Kiwi coach had no doubts
about picking his strongest side.

“That mix for us means that we can’t afford to give them turnover ball
because they’ll play effectively off it,” he warned.

Henshaw, however, pulled up at the end of training on Tuesday and Luke Fitzgerald
was rushed in as his replacement, with Darren Cave rested.

“Robbie felt his hamstring tighten a little bit,” said Schmidt.

“We got it scanned and there’s a little bit of blood there. He’s ok to
walk and jog around but he does feel that tightness when he’s accelerating.

“It’d be a real risk to push him ahead and we’re quietly confident he
should be okay by next Sunday (September 27 against Romania).”

Full-back Rob Kearney regains his starting spot after being rested in the final
warm-up match against England, Simon Zebo dropping to the bench.

Prop Cian Healy is also named among the replacements, Jack McGrath starting
at loosehead as his Leinster teammate eases back into action following long-standing
neck problems.

Veteran lock Paul O’Connell captains the side and will pack down alongside
Ulster’s Iain Henderson, McGrath accompanied in the front row by hooker Rory
Best and tighthead Mike Ross.

Jamie Heaslip anchors a powerful, first-choice backrow featuring Sean O’Brien
and Peter O’Mahony on the flanks.

Connor Murray resumes his slick half-back partnership with fly-half Jonathan
Sexton, Schmidt resisting the urge to give their understudies Eoin Reddan or
Ian Madigan a run-out against the Canadians.

New Zealand-born Jared Payne combines with Fitzgerald in midfield, while David
Kearney and Keith Earls are named on the wings.

After the Canada game, Ireland go on to play Romania in Wembley, Italy at the
Olympic Stadium on October 4 and arguably the pool-topping decider against France
back at the Millennium Stadium on October 11.

Skipper O’Connell may be in his fourth World Cup, but he said the excitement
was greater than his first experience in 2003.

“Coming over it was like a bunch of guys going on a school tour, it was
a very giddy flight and bus trip to the hotel here!” the Munster lock laughed.

“Preparation’s gone really well for the team and for myself… it’s nice
to get here and get here in good shape as well, having played a good few games
and having trained for 10, 11 weeks.

“The excitement is massive, probably more than the first one (in 2003)
because I know there’s no more to come.”

Ireland

Rob Kearney; David Kearney, Jared Payne, Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls; Jonathan
Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony; Paul O’Connell
(capt), Iain Henderson; Mike Ross, Rory Best, Jack McGrath

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Nathan White, Donnacha Ryan, Chris Henry,
Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Simon Zebo

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