Ireland name strong team for their Rugby World Cup opener with Canada

• Paul O’Connell will lead side on his 106th appearance for his country
• Robbie Henshaw not considered because of a hamstring injury

Ireland have named their strongest available side for their World Cup opener against Canada in Cardiff on Saturday. It does not include their Lions wing Tommy Bowe, who has been dropped after struggling against England’s Jonny May at Twickenham earlier this month.

The centre Robbie Henshaw is the one player in the squad not considered because of injury. He tweaked a hamstring in training before Ireland left for Cardiff and is unlikely to be fit for the second game against Romania on Sunday week either.

Paul O’Connell will lead the side on his 106th appearance for Ireland in his fourth World Cup, equalling John Hayes’ record for a forward. The fly-half Jonathan Sexton needs six points to reach 500 for his country and Iain Henderson partners O’Connell in the second row after impressing in the warm-up matches.

Joe Schmidt, the Ireland head coach, said he was expecting a hard encounter against Canada, who lost to Fiji 47-18 in their final game before the tournament 12 days ago, as well as a response from his players after a run of two consecutive defeats.

“We lost to Wales and England but there were positive aspects in both matches, not least the scrum,” he said. “There are things to work on. We leaked more tackles than we normally do and lost the ball more often than normal.

“We cannot afford to do that against Canada who have a number of guys who play Sevens and are useful on turnover possession.” O’Connell will be up against Jamie Cudmore in the second row, two of the most experienced players in the tournament at the respective ages of 35 and 37. They will both be involved in the Top 14 after the tournament with O’Connell joining Toulon and Cudmore long established at Clermont Auvergne.

“They have had some good tussles in the past,” said Schmidt. “I remember when I was at Clermont and we played Munster in Europe. Jamie saw red and Paul received a yellow card. Those who do not know Jamie very well would see him as a bit of a reckless character [but] he would be one of the nicest blokes you would ever meet. He was always available in Clermont for all charitable and community events and I have a lot of time for him.”

O’Connell said: “He is a terrific player and the testament to him is that he consistently commands a place in a club that can pick up any player in the world. He seems to get better with age and has it all. It will be a really tough battle.”

The Canada coach, Kieran Crowley, said his side’s objective was to make it hard for Ireland. “They are one of the favourites for the tournament, so we know what lies in front of us, but we have trained hard and hope things go our way.”

Ireland team to face Canada, Millennium Stadium, 2.30pm Sat 9 Sept

R Kearney, D Kearney both Leinster, J Payne Ulster, L Fitzgerald Leinster, K Earls Munster, J Sexton Leinster, C Murray Munster, J McGrath Leinster, R Best Ulster, M Ross Leinster, I Henderson Ulster, P O’Connell capt, P O’Mahony both Munster, S O’Brien, J Heaslip both Leinster.

Replacements S Cronin, C Healy both Leinster, N White Connacht, D Ryan Munster, C Henry Ulster, E Reddan, I Madigan both Leinster, S Zebo Munster.


Paul Rees

The GuardianTramp

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