Predicted Ireland team to play Scotland in their Rugby World Cup opener, Kick-Off 8:45 am Sunday, September 22.
Joe Schmidt’s side bid to overcome what has been a disappointing year to date and need to show the world what they are truly capable of on rugby’s biggest stage. With a favourable group containing hosts Japan, Russia and Samoa – should Ireland topple the Scots, it is likely to be enough to top the pool, which all adds to the importance of this clash.
Scotland will be seeking revenge after Ireland’s 22-13 win at Murrayfield in the Six Nations, but with this fifteen fully fit and at their best, Ireland should have more than enough to get over the line.
Rob Kearney – Not quite at the age where he can play every game anymore, it’s likely that this is the clash where Schmidt will turn to Kearney’s experience. He has excelled for Ireland and the Lions on the biggest stages and is always reliable when called upon. Jordan Larmour will be granted opportunities in the group phase but expect Kearney to face the Scots.
Keith Earls – Ireland’s leading try scorer at Rugby World Cups, the Munster star is never phased by the height of occasions, and he will be key at the tournament. Having grabbed a try against this opponent last time out, there’s a reason to believe he is more than capable of providing a sufficient level of threat.
Robbie Henshaw – This position is up for grabs in truth, but Henshaw and Aki have worked a treat together on past occasions. He has been plagued by injury, but if fully fit for the Ireland Scotland Kick-off time he is the best option in this role.
Bundee Aki – He has been a constant threat in international colours, arguably yet to have a bad game for Ireland, and the Connacht man’s quick feet and ability to turn a game on its head make him a mainstay in the Irish fold.
Jacob Stockdale – His try-scoring record has been nothing short of sensational, and with Stockdale’s chipping ability, Ireland can adopt many different approaches in the attack. He gives a new dimension to the side, and often is on hand to finish off any move, while deadly on the counter.
Jonny Sexton – Ireland will rely heavily on Sexton’s kicking ability at this tournament, they will need to take the opportunities to put points on the board when granted. Joey Carbery’s injury worries mean Sexton is nailed on to start this one, and when fully fit, he is the man that really drags the side by the scruff of the neck.
Conor Murray – The Munster man will be vital in setting the tempo for Joe Schmidt’s men in Japan but will need to improve on his showing against England. When composed, Murray is one of the finest players in the game, and more than capable of crossing the line himself.
CJ Stander – Stander’s physical presence and ability to carry the ball at speed for a big man make him a nightmare for opposition defences. He is someone who thrives off possession, and key to the Irish tactics.
Josh Van Der Flier – Often coming from nowhere to fly into an opponent, turn over the ball and make great gains going forward – Van Der Flier is nailed on to start for Ireland, as he will be vital in keeping the Scots at bay and in maintaining possession.
Peter O’Mahony – Known for delivering his finest days on the biggest stages, Peter O’Mahony is a man who will be bursting with enthusiasm for the clash, as he often turns in a man-of-the-match performance when it counts the most. Like Kearney, he will not feature all the time, with opportunities there for Tadhg Beirne, but his experience will be instrumental.
James Ryan – One of the finest talents in both Irish and World Rugby at present, Ryan is probably the first name on the team sheet. Rarely finishing games without double figures in carries and tackles, he has proved a colossus individually when Ireland have looked lacklustre on the collective.
Iain Henderson – Devin Toner may get the nod but Henderson has done little wrong to suggest he may be dropped, the line-out has been poor in recent weeks but it is likely a change at hooker is the more likely scenario, with Henderson and Toner likely to both, see a fair share of action.
Tadhg Furlong – Refuses to give opponents an inch and like many, turns out his best on the biggest occasions, regarded by many as the best tighthead prop in world rugby. Barring any freak occurrence, Furlong will be heavily involved.
Niall Scannell – It is difficult to admit, but Rory Best quite simply hasn’t been up to scratch as of late. He has been a fantastic servant to Irish rugby but in his twilight, it may be time for a change. Scannell has performed well in past when entrusted and with the need of a shake-up in the line-out, Best could well be the one to make way.
Cian Healy – A hard-hitting tough-tackling machine who makes his fair share of carries, Healy is a source of inspiration to his team-mates, never leaving anything behind on the field. When fully fit, he is a cert to start – but Jack McGrath will also see plenty of action.
Regardless of who starts, one thing is certain – this game is must-win for Ireland, as they will look to top the group and face a runner-up in the quarter-final stages. If recent form is anything to go by, something will need to change between now and then.