Peter O’Mahony wins 50th cap as Joe Schmidt makes 5 changes to his starting side that beat the Wallabies last weekend. History seeking Ireland go in search of a first series win on Australian soil since 1979.
After a bruising opening two Tests and a long season for the Irish, injuries have forced Schmidt into 5 changes ahead of the final showdown in Sydney. Try scorer Andrew Conway hasn’t recovered sufficiently from a hip pointer injury he picked up last weekend, meaning Earls shifts to the right wing with the intercept king Jacob Stockdale reclaiming his spot on the left wing.
Bundee Aki comes into midfield for the injured Garry Ringrose who picked up a foot injury during last weekends win. This means Robbie Henshaw will move into to 13 shirt, where he started the opening test.
Rob Kearney remains at full back, while Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton continue their half-back partnership for the second consecutive week. The uncapped Ross Byrne is set for his international debut off the bench, as Joey Carbery misses out on the 23 completely.
Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath and Jack Conan all come into the starting pack with Dan Leavy missing out through injury. James Ryan and Devin Toner combine again in the second row. The introduction of Conan at 8, means Stander will slot into the 6 shirt with Peter O’Mahony captaining from openside. The Munster man was a standout player last weekend and will be hoping to repeat that performance on the occasion of his 50th Irish cap.
Cian Healy has recovered from his AC joint injury to take his place on the bench. Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Jordi Murphy, Kieran Marmion and Jordan Larmour make up the remainder of the bench.
Joe Schmidt has really made use of this historic 3 Test tour to blood new players in the international environment. 15 months out from the Rugby World Cup, Schmidt now has depth in most positions. Questions, of course, still remain about the replacements for Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton at half-back. While Joey Carbery has started twice in the 10 shirt for Ireland this season, Conor Murray has rarely been relieved of his starting duties. Neither Kieran Marmion or John Cooney has seen a credible amount of time in the Irish 9 jersey this season or on this tour. Both are capable players and deserve a chance to prove their worth on the International stage.
Peter O’Mahony wins 50th cap
Schmidt has a selection headache at hooker, with Best, Scannell, Cronin and Herring all tested and proven at the highest level. Scannell and Herring both taking their opportunity in the starting jersey with Cronin getting his chance this weekend. The back-row depth is frightening, with an amount of players due to return from injury next season including Sean O’Brien, Josh van Der Flier, Jack O’Donaghue to name but a few.
With players like Marty Moore, Tadhg Beirne, Irish qualified qualified Mike Haley all returning to Irish provinces, there is no doubt that Irish rugby is in an extremely positive place no matter what the outcome of this weekend. However, a series victory on Aussie soil would be extra special for this trailblazing Irish squad.
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