There are some doubts surrounding the makeup of Ireland’s backline ahead of the Pool A opener against Scotland in Yokohama on Sunday.
According to reports this evening, Rob Kearney suffered a calf injury in training today which puts him in doubt for Sunday’s match.
An update will likely be issued tomorrow (1am Irish time) on Kearney’s fitness but it just exasperates the headache Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt must have when he selects his backline.
Robbie Henshaw has more or less been ruled out of Ireland’s opening game due to a hamstring injury while Keith Earls must prove his fitness later this week as he recovers from a knee issue which he picked up in the win over Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
If all three players are ruled out, then it will be a significant blow.
Here is who we think will step in on Sunday if Kearney, Henshaw and Earls are all unavailable.
Garry Ringrose looked nailed on to be Ireland’s 23rd man against Scotland after Robbie Henshaw made a superb return in the win over Wales in Dublin.
Schmidt has spoken frequently about Ringrose’s versatility which made it look all the more likely that he would have to contend with a spot on the bench.
However, with Henshaw’s unavailability, it looks like Ringrose will get an opportunity to start from the off and if he impresses, the 13 jersey could be his to lose throughout the rest of the tournament.
Andrew Conway & Jordan Larmour
If Earls and Kearney are unavailable, then it seems destined that it will be Conway and Larmour who come into the starting XV.
With both players able to play wing and fullback, a tough decision will have to be made on where to start them.
In this instance, we would like to see Andrew Conway start at fullback due to his excellent ability in the air and without Kearney, Scotland will likely target Ireland’s backfield with kicks just like England did in the opening round of the Six Nations earlier this year.
Larmour, of course, has vast experience of playing on the wing at provincial and international level.
Potential Ireland Backline
9. Conor Murray
10. Johnny Sexton
11. Jacob Stockdale
12. Bundee Aki
13. Garry Ringrose
14. Jordan Larmour
15. Andrew Conway