Farrell: We have to give Best and Schmidt a fitting farewell
Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell says the team are desperate to give Joe Schmidt and Rory Best a farewell to be proud of against Wales at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow.
Like Wales, Ireland have named virtually a full-strength line-up for their final World Cup warm-up fixture, with Johnny Sexton returning to take his place at fly-half. Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw also return in the backs as Ireland look to take a bit of momentum with them out to Japan.
Farrell said the match would have extra significance for Ireland’s players, given it would be the last time that head coach Schmidt and captain Best took charge of the team on home soil. “It is our last game before we get on the plane [to Japan] on Wednesday,” Farrell said. “We’re after a performance that we’re proud of. There’s an extra reason for that – Rory’s last game at the Aviva, and Joe’s as well.
“The important thing is we put the performance in, the cohesive performance and the right mental attitude to take forward into two weeks and the start of the World Cup against Scotland [on Sept 22].”
Ireland, who named their final 31-man squad on Monday, will have nine British and Irish Lions on the field. Sexton’s involvement – for the first time in this series of warm-up fixtures – was expected. But it is still a statement of intent.
After their desperate 57-15 defeat by England at Twickenham last month, Ireland fans will be hoping the return of their playmaker and talisman gives their team greater control and creativity, while also
High expectations: Andy Farrell wants Ireland to make a statement of intent against Wales crossing their fingers and toes that he comes through unscathed.
Earls and Henshaw also make their returns from injury, with Farrell promising the former was back to his best. “He’s fine,” Farrell said of the Munster winger. “Keith hit his highest speed score today as he was going to score a try in the corner which delighted us all.”
Jacob Stockdale has been rested following his brace in Ireland’s win over a B-string Wales the Principality Stadium last weekend, with Earls starting on the left wing and Jordan Larmour the right. Henshaw slots in at 13 outside Bundee In the forwards, Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong form an all-star front row, while James Ryan and Jean Kleyn – the newlyqualified South Africa-born lock whose selection ahead of Devin Toner raised eyebrows this week – are paired in the second row.
It is the back row, though, that features Ireland’s most interesting selection call. After experimenting with Tadhg Beirne and Peter O’mahony at six and seven last weekend, this time Schmidt has named CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier on either side of the scrum with Jack Conan retaining his place at No8 following his strong showing in Cardiff last weekend when Ireland’s mix-and-match team beat Wales’s reserves.
Farrell, who will take over from Schmidt post-world Cup, also confirmed there were no new injuries to the 31 in camp, with reserve flyhalf Joey Carbery continuing his ankle rehab.
Best said it was beginning to dawn on him it was his last game at the Aviva Stadium after an incident following training at Carton House yesterday morning. “There [were] a few of the same faces that greet us coming off the training pitch,” he said. “One woman, she was in tears and saying it was the last time I would walk off [that pitch].”