As much as Ireland celebrated their historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago, it raised a number possible questions over selection.
Should either Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony be included in the starting XV for the return fixture? Will Joe Schmidt be tempted to start Ultan Dillane alongside Devin Toner in the second row?
Despite Rob Kearney’s performance against the All Blacks, is it possible that Jared Payne could move to fullback with Gary Ringrose starting in midfield?
After travelling to Chicago in spite of his suspension, can Keith Earls manage to dislodge either Andrew Trimble or Simon Zebo for a place on the wing.
These selection headaches are of course welcome, and create a great deal of intrigue ahead of the Saturday’s much anticipated rematch, particularly as the All Blacks are set recall a number of injured players.
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In this week’s edition of The Oval Office Podast we review Ireland’s historic win over New Zealand and this weekend’s rugby action.
After featuring against Italy, Brodie Retallick is likely to start alongside Sam Whitelock in the second row. The duo will strengthen an All Black line out that malfunctioned so badly in Soldier Field.
Not only that, but Retallick in particular will add to New Zealand’s game in the loose. The temptation for for Schmidt therefore might be to fight fire with fire and unleash Dillane from the start.
Anton Lienert-Brown is also likely to start in midfield, bringing an offloading game that was missing during the first encounter. Julian Savea could also face the axe, with Ben Smith a possibility on the wing alongside the in-form Israel Dagg at fullback.
If Steve Hansen were to start both fullbacks, it would limit the effectiveness of Conor Murray’s box kicking game. Lets not forget, the All Blacks scored their first try from one such over cooked effort, allowing Smith the space to counter attack immediately.
There also exists every possibility that Aaron Smith could be replaced with TJ Perenara, while Beauden Barrett’s inconsistent place kicking could create and opening for Aaron Cruden.
This leaves Schmidt with a great deal to ponder. As much as the All Blacks find themselves in the unusual position of having to find ways of negating Ireland’s maul and pick holes in their aggressive defence, the Irish coach will not be able to rely on the same game plan.
As powerful as Ireland’s maul is, the All Blacks will be primed to stop it by either attacking Rory Best’s throw or by trying to get numbers between the receiver and support players once he hits the ground.
Any slight disruption can slow Ireland’s momentum and force Conor Murrray to move the ball much earlier than anticipated. If this is the case, then Schmidt may have to consider moving Payne to fullback, from where he can run brilliant lines to open up the All Black defence.
This is of course the price you pay for beating New Zealand. Hansen and his players will be hell bent on beating the team who ruined their quest to finish 2016 unbeaten.
They will leave no stone unturned in their bid to do so, and will adapt their style and selection in order to avenge the result in Chicago.
Possible Ireland XV:
[tie_slide]1. Jack McGrath (Leinster)
[tie_slide]2. Rory Best (Ulster)
[tie_slide]3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
[tie_slide]4. Devin Toner (Leinster)
[tie_slide]5. Ultan Dillane (Connacht)
[tie_slide]6. CJ Stander (Munster)
[tie_slide]7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
[tie_slide]8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)
[tie_slide]9. Conor Murray (Munster)
[tie_slide]10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster)
[tie_slide]11. Simon Zebo (Munster)
[tie_slide]12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
[tie_slide]13. Jared Payne (Ulster)
[tie_slide]14. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)
[tie_slide]15. Rob Kearney (Leinster)
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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