Three Key Decisions Joe Schmidt Has To Make Ahead Of The England Game
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Ireland open up the defence of their Six Nations title next weekend with a visit of old rivals England to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Following an incredible year, 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.
Here are three key decisions Schmidt must make ahead of the England game.
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 seven for the England game? Two very different players, that can both make a difference. Who would you start?
Rob Kearney has always been Schmidt’s first-choice fullback and time and time again he has delivered. But Kearney only returned from injury on Friday in a lacklustre performance against Scarlets. Elsewhere then 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?
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 last week he’s the one man that cannot be dropped. But if that’s the case, who partners him? Thankfully we don’t have to make that call, but we agree with BOD that Aki should be there.