It’s Time To Vote On The Three Biggest Calls Joe Schmidt Has To Make For The England Game

The defence.

Ireland open up the defence of their Six Nations title this weekend with a visit of Eddie Jones’ England to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Following an incredible 2018, winning a Grand Slam, a series in Australia, as well as defeating the mighty All Blacks – Ireland are deserved favourites heading into rugby’s greatest championship.

But Schmidt knows this year is different, and defending any crown is no easy task. Competition has improved both in terms of his opponents and within the Irish camp itself. And with that internal competition comes some big decisions.

Who starts in the centre?

As things stand for the first time since all four came to prominence – Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell are all fit and ready to go for a Test match. But unfortunately four does not go into two and Schmidt has some big calls to make. Aki has been the constant, with Brian O’Driscoll saying he’s the one man that cannot be dropped. But if that’s the case, who partners him? Or do you go with a midfield minus Aki? What about Tom Farrell and Will Addison? Here’s your chance to vote.

Who starts at seven?

Dan Leavy may be still out with injury, but such is the depth of the current Irish back-row, Joe Schmidt still has two world class sevens to choose from in Josh van der Flier and Sean O’Brien. VDF was instrumental in Ireland’s win over New Zealand back in November, tackling every All Black that moved. But O’Brien has given us a glimpse of old in the Champions Cup since returning. Who does Schmidt go with at openside for the England game? Two very different players, that can both make a difference. Who would you start? Cast your vote now.

Who starts at fullback?

Rob Kearney has always been Schmidt’s first-choice fullback and time and time again he has delivered. But Kearney only returned from injury last Friday in a lacklustre performance against Scarlets. Elsewhere Andrew Conway has been in the form of his life for Munster, while Jordan Larmour and Will Addison also continue to impress. Is Kearney ready to go for the England game or would Schmidt be better off giving him the week off so he’s raring to go come the Scotland game? What about Robbie Henshaw as a left field choice? He’s been spotted training at 15 during Ireland’s warm weather camp in Portugal.

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