Ireland coach Joe Schmidt makes six changes for Australia clash
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has just shown that behind his smile there is plenty of bite – by making six changes to his starting side for tomorrow night's Test against Australia at the Aviva Stadium (5.45pm).
Four of last weekend's replacements in the 40-9 rout of Samoa will start. Three of those inclusions were wholly predictable – the return of captain Paul O'Connell, Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien came as no surprise.
But Eoin Reddan's promotion from replacement scrum-half at the expense of Conor Murray was right out of the most secret compartment of Schmidt's box of tricks. Having faced the Wallabies for the Lions during the summer, Murray had been expected to start.
In naming Reddan ahead of Murray, the coach underlined what he has always maintained – reputation in trumped by current form.
In what is a straight swap, this time it is Reddan who will be in the number nine jersey, with Murray wearing 21.
There are two other starters who did not make last week's match-day 23 – Lions and Racing Metro stand-off Jonny Sexton and Ulster centre Luke Marshall.
Both had been expected to return at the expense of Paddy Jackson and Gordon D'Arcy respectively and on this occasion the Ireland coach did not make fools of those who had dared to second-guess him.
Neither Jackson – scorer of 15 points against the Samoans – nor Dave Kearney who bagged two debut tries last weekend, made the 23, though last week's man of the match, Jack McGrath did.
Devin Toner – by dint of his impressive line-out work in the Samoan game – has been given the nod to start alongside O'Connell in the engine-room, with Mike McCarthy on the bench.
By naming 10 of last summer's series-winning Lions in his match-day squad, Schmidt believes his has a group capable of lowering Australia's colours once more.
"I think it's a really good team, I think it's what can help us put our best foot forward against Australia. I think it's an opportunity to broaden the squad," he said.
"One of the things that I feel we have to do is to have 30, maybe 35, players with the ability to play international rugby. We're trying to grow the group a little bit so that we get competition within the squad so we can be as competitive on the field as we can be."
Explaining his decision to start with Reddan rather than Murray the Irish coach said: "Look, we're happy with Conor; it's about giving opportunity. It's the same with Gordon D'Arcy; it's about giving an opportunity to Luke Marshall.
"We're delighted with Paddy Jackson to be honest and it's unlucky for him, but we just feel that Ian Madigan gives us better cover off the bench. He has played 12 and 15 and he covers 10.
"We feel that Jonny (Sexton) was rested last week and he comes in fresh."
Munster tight-head Stephen Archer and Connacht back three starlet Robbie Henshaw are two more left-field inclusions.