We look at the starting possible team that new Ireland Rugby coach Joe Schmidt will play against Australia on November 16th, Kick Off 5:45pm.
The former Leinster caoch has been hit with a long injury list including Strauss, Ferris, Ryan and Zebo for the Autumn Internationals.
With Australia at arguably their weakest point in history, it is the perfect opportunity for Schmidt to steer some fast, free-flowing rugby. But with all these injuries he will be the facing a huge task to gain victory over the Wallabies.
Forwards: S Archer, R Best, J Coughlan, T Court, S Cronin, D Fitzpatrick, C Healy, J Heaslip, C Henry, M McCarthy, J McGrath, K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, P O’Connell, P O’Mahony, M Ross, M Sherry, D Toner, D Tuohy.
Backs: I Boss, T Bowe, G D’Arcy, K Earls, R Henshaw, P Jackson, D Kearney, R Kearney, I Madigan, L Marshall, F McFadden, C Murray, B O’Driscoll, E Reddan, J Sexton.
Possible starting team for Ireland against Australia
1. Cian Healy – Although he has been injured on and off for the last few months, he is a constant threat on the ball and his carrying ability is truly remarkable. The new scrummaging laws suit his physicality which helps to provide a suitable platform for Ireland going forward.
2. Rory Best – Although his form has not been as good as we expect, the Ulsterman brings experience and leadership qualities to the pack. Strauss has missed a good opportunity through injury. Sean Cronin will fill the space if Best is not up to the challenge.
3. Mike Ross – Ireland are suffering from a lack of props so Ross looks the best choice. He has experience unlike some of the other options. He may be tested at scrum time with the new laws but with a strong second row partnership behind him he should be ok.
4. Donnacha O’Callaghan – Although most of Ireland would have thought this veteran’s days were over with the coming of Donnacha Ryan, he has really dug deep and taken his chances while O’Connell and Ryan have had reoccurring injuries. He has proved himself this season domestically and has just signed a two-year deal with Munster.
5. Paul O’Connell (C) – One of the easiest decisions for Schimdt is choosing the red-headed monster from Munster who is back from injury and will test his fitness against Samoa this coming Saturday. He had an outstanding Lions Tour and is playing some of the best rugby of his career at the ripe old age of 34.
6. Sean O’Brien – Man of the Match performances in many of Leinster’s games this season O’Brien has restored the bound between Irish rugby fans and the Tullow Tank. He is a constant threat on the ball and his work rate doesn’t recede for the full 80 minutes. Although he plays No.7 for Leinster, with the injury list Schmidt has I feel he will be moved to 6 to allow for O’Mahony who is a more orthodox open-side flanker.
7. Peter O’Mahony – He has proved his quality already for Munster and Ireland as a natural No. 7 with an incredible work rate. The breakdown will crucial in Ireland’s strategy to beat the Wallabies and I’m sure O’Mahony is at the centre of Schmidt’s plans.
8. Jamie Heaslip – He had a terrific Lions Tour and I feel that being left out of the final test was unjust. He was appointed captain in the last series of matches for Ireland and I think he deserves the opportunity again to prove his worth. Consistent performances, strong carries and an immense work rate is what we get from this stern operator.
9. Conor Murray – He is having a solid season with consistent performances. He has proved his experience at Munster by giving young out-half Keatley confidence and a solid platform to work off. His strength and speed will be put to the test against Genia but I think he will be up to the challenge.
10. Jonny Sexton – An obvious pick for Schimdt, a proven leader and motivator in the Irish Squad. I think his recent move to France showed his maturity and intelligence as a person, not just a rugby player. He was rested at the weekend which is good news for Ireland as he will arrive fit and ready for these fierce encounters.
11. Keith Earls – With Zebo injured, I think Earls will move to the wing. He has had a good start to the season and his tough mind-set will be put to the test against the dominant Israel Folau who proved his worth against the Lions. It will be interesting to see his attacking qualities in this series after being shown up by Zebo and Gilroy during the Six Nations.
12. Luke Marshall – He is having a quality season with Ulster, but a huge worry is the amount of concussions he has sustained in recent months. This is a risk Schmidt will have to be willing to take if he wants the most exciting centre partnership. If fit, he will be an asset to the team as he is smart, quick and a solid defender.
13. Brian O’Driscoll - He is looking to make the most of his last year in the green jersey and I’m sure a win against New Zealand and Australia in this series would be the icing on top of his already extremely impressive cake. He is back from injury and is expected to play all three tests; I am looking forward to his link up with young Marshall as they play a similar style of rugby.
14. Tommy Bowe – He is playing outstanding rugby at the moment for Ulster and is a proven try scorer. He adds pace and strength to the attack but can be challenged in defence. He needs to demonstrate his leadership qualities and carry a troubled back three in this series.
15. Rob Kearney – Although he has had a poor start to the season by his standards, we all know he is a talented rugby player and his quality under the high ball is essential, especially in the cold November air. He is a dynamic runner but needs to work on his defence and decision making at times.