Wary Ire­land bring back the big guns

Sch­midt rings changes for match against Italy Az­zurri re­call Parisse for game they must win

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport: Rugby World Cup 2015 - By Tom Cary

Eng­land could be out of the World Cup by the time Ire­land face their first real test of this tour­na­ment, against Italy, at the Olympic Sta­dium to­mor­row af­ter­noon. Wary of the threat posed by the

Az­zurri, who welcome back tal­is­manic cap­tain Ser­gio Parisse for what is a must-win match for them, Ire­land head coach Joe Sch­midt has named his strong­est pos­si­ble lineup, with 11 changes from the team who dis­man­tled Ro­ma­nia at Wem­b­ley last Sun­day. And Sch­midt ad­mit­ted yesterday that he would hap­pily take a scrappy win, with the re­sult more im­por­tant than the per­for­mance at this stage.

“I’d be de­lighted to get the re­sult,” Sch­midt said. “It’s prob­a­bly not of­ten I say that. If I’m talk­ing to you guys on Sun­day evening post-game and we’ve had a two­point win I’d be de­lighted to have qual­i­fied.

“In a tour­na­ment like this per­for­mance is ob­vi­ously piv­otal, but I don’t think any­one’s go­ing to com­plain as long as you get through to the next round and you re­main alive in the tour­na­ment.

“We’re vir­tu­ally now at the be­gin­ning of the knock­out stages, be­cause while it might not be fa­tal it would be a very se­ri­ous blow if we didn’t win on Sun­day and for us that would make the fol­low­ing week a mas­sive pres­sure cooker that we mas­sively could do with­out.”

Af­ter miss­ing the wins against Canada and Ro­ma­nia through in­jury, Con­nacht’s Rob­bie Hen­shaw re­turns at in­side cen­tre, but his Six Na­tions part­ner, Jared Payne, is in­jured, mean­ing for the sev­enth match run­ning Sch­midt has been forced to field a dif­fer­ent mid­field part­ner­ship, with Keith Earls mov­ing across from the wing to fill the No 13 berth. As Earls cel­e­brated his 28th birth­day on Fri­day, he be­came one of only two Ir­ish play­ers named to start each World Cup game.

“It’s nice to fi­nally work with him,” Sch­midt said of the player whom he had to wait 19 games in charge to see in ac­tion. “Ev­ery time he just picked up an in­jury prior to the bracket of games we were about to en­ter into.”

“It’s been great to have him in the group, I think it’s added to the real con­test among those back three, mid­dle three play­ers.”

Else­where in the back di­vi­sion, Rob Kear­ney is not risked fol­low­ing a hip in­jury, mean­ing Si­mon Zebo holds on to the No 15 jersey. Tommy Bowe is pre­ferred to Luke Fitzger­ald on the wing.

In the pack, Cian Healy, still not back to full fit­ness fol­low­ing neck surgery, has had to be con­tent with a place on the bench as Sch­midt has opted for a front row of Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Mike Ross.

Iain Hen­der­son is again the pre­ferred part­ner for cap­tain Paul O’Con­nell in the sec­ond row.

“It may end up be­ing one of those sorts of at­tri­tional af­fairs in the first 40,” Sch­midt pre­dicted. “And then, hope­fully, as the game ac­cel­er­ates through the last quar­ter you can maybe get away.

“It’s prob­a­bly eas­ier said than done when a team is fight­ing for their lives. They know that if they lose that their tour­na­ment is pretty much over.”

The re­turn of the in­spi­ra­tional Parisse to the Ital­ian line-up is the ma­jor plus point for Italy, who have looked far from their best in their two games thus far against France and Canada.

“He is a su­per player,” Sch­midt said, adding that the Stade Fran­cais player’s pres­ence alone could turn it into a long af­ter­noon for his men.

Cen­tre stage: Rob­bie Hen­shaw re­turns at 12 for Ire­land, along­side Keith Earls

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