The Ireland team to play Australia in Saturday’s second Test at AAMI Park in Melbourne (kick-off 8.05pm local time/11.05am Irish time) has been announced by head coach Joe Schmidt.
There are eight personnel changes and one positional switch to the side that lost 18-9 to the Wallabies in Brisbane last weekend, with the uncapped Tadhg Beirne and scrum half John Cooney, who has one cap to date, also added to the bench.
The starting pack has alterations across all three lines, including an all-new front row of Cian Healy, who wins his 80th cap, Niall Scannell, who comes in for his fourth Test start, and Tadhg Furlong. Devin Toner’s return makes it an all-Leinster second row pairing with James Ryan.
Dan Leavy swaps in for the benched Jordi Murphy at openside flanker, joining captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander and reuniting the back row trio that started against Wales, Scotland and England in the latter rounds of the Six Nations.
Jonathan Sexton, Garry Ringrose and Andrew Conway are reintroduced in the back-line, taking over at out-half, outside centre and on the right wing respectively. Ringrose, who was a try scorer against Australia in November 2016, pairs up with Robbie Henshaw who shifts infield to wear the number 12 jersey.
Sexton wins his 75th cap, taking the out-half reins from the benched Joey Carbery, while Munster wingers Andrew Conway and Keith Earls, who has come through the return-to-play protocols, link up with Rob Kearney – the most-capped member of the matchday squad with 84 caps – in the back-three.
Conway touched down on his last Test start on the wing, against South Africa last November, and his future Munster team-mate, Tadhg Beirne, is poised to make his Ireland debut off the bench. Replacement scrum half John Cooney, a real talisman for Ulster this season, could win his second cap almost exactly year on from his first against Japan.
Commenting on the team selection and the players nursing ‘niggly’ injuries, head coach Joe Schmidt said: “A couple of guys are carrying niggles. Bundee Aki has that ankle and that’s kind of niggled away at him. He is able to play, but we’ll leave him out this weekend.
“Iain Henderson twisted his knee a little bit, again it’s just niggly. There’s a few other guys who didn’t train on Tuesday, they were just a bit sore really. It was a relatively physical game last week, some of those contacts. Some of (the players who didn’t train on Tuesday) are starting and some of them aren’t, most of them trained, but some of them didn’t. We kept them out of the contact really.
“Andrew Conway didn’t get to play in the Six Nations, he was injured, but did a great job in November. It’s a great opportunity for him. Jacob (Stockdale) was a guy who didn’t train on Tuesday, he’s just a little sore. He’s fully fit but we’ll give Andrew an opportunity this week.
“Jordan (Larmour) gives us cover in the back-three and in midfield as well, so hence he’s on the bench and we’ll give Jacob a chance to get himself right potentially for next week (in Sydney).”
He added: “It is a good mix. Tadhg (Furlong) and Cian came off the bench last week and they were disappointed they didn’t see through the positive end-game we were looking for. Johhny always brings organisation up front, so I know that he will be enthusiastic. Garry Ringrose did a fantastic job in the last two games of Six Nations. He will be looking to hit the ground running.
“Niall Scannell played right through the Six Nations last year for us, so he’s a guy who, when he got his opportunity (to start against Italy) when Rory Best was unwell, did a super job for us. We’re giving him another opportunity to impress.
“With Niall, he’s a good scrummaging hooker and that will add a little bit to an area where we weren’t as strong as we normally are. It is a real opportunity for him to probably galvanise that pack and take a step forward at scrum time.”
The second Test between Ireland and Australia will be broadcast live on Sky Sports (TV) and RTE 2fm (radio). Ireland supporters can follow all the news from the summer tour here on IrishRugby.ie and via the IRFU’s social media channels.
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Australia, 2018 Summer Tour Second Test, AAMI Park, Melbourne, Saturday, June 16, kick-off 8.05pm local time/11.05am Irish time):
15. Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 84
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 6
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 13
12. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 34
11. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 68
10. Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 74
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 65
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 79
2. Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 7
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 24
4. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 9
5. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 58
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) (capt) 48
7. Dan Leavy (UCD/Leinster) 9
8. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 24
16. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 4
17. Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 48
18. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 7
19. Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets) *
20. Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster) 21
21. John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 1
22. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Leinster) 11
23. Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 4
* Denotes uncapped player