Ireland expecting best World Cup performance under Schmidt
Ireland open their World Cup game against the Canucks amid a wave of unprecedented hope that this could finally be their year – at the very least in terms of qualifying for a first ever semi-final.
Much has been made of Ireland’s perceived favourable draw, with opening fixtures against the Canadians and Romania providing a chance to get up to speed before their big Pool D clashes against Italy and France.
Certainly Ireland looked off the boil in their warm-up games but there is still time to ensure they peak when it matters. Joe Schmidt, however, will be at pains to keep the focus on the game at hand and to that extent he has named a strong looking team for this clash.
Robbie Henshaw sits this one out through injury, with Luke Fitzgerald taking his place in midfield, but other than that it is as near to full strength as possible. Keith Earls and Dave Kearney get the nod on the wings with Tommy Bowe missing out, while fit-again Cian Healy has to be content with a place on the bench. Elsewhere Iain Henderson partners captain Paul O’Connell in the second row.
For Canada there is little hope of progressing beyond the pool but the players will still be motivated by pride in their jersey and the knowledge that a good showing can lead to better things. There are many amateur players in their ranks who will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of London Irish back row Jebb Sinclair, who secured a pro contract on the back of some strong performances at RWC2011.
Of course Canada are not just a team of lift operators and teachers with grizzled Clermont veteran Jamie Cudmore providing the grunt up front. However, skipper and Ospreys loose forward Tyler Ardon has not recovered from injury in time to make this one.
Behind the scrum their main attacking threat will come from former Glasgow flyer DTH van der Merwe and Welsh-based Ospreys winger Jeff Hassler.
The back-to-back Six Nations champions may have lost some momentum with consecutive defeats against Wales and England but should get back to winning ways here. Ireland are available to win by 21-30 points inclusive at 7/2.
The match kicks off at 2.30pm pm Saturday, September 19th at the Millennium Stadium
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