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Schmidt holding high hopes for Ulster quartet

Cave, Bowe, Payne and Henry to the fore for Irish

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 26/09/2015

Hands on: Ulster’s Darren Cave will aim to nail down his place when he starts for Ireland against Romania at Wembley
Hands on: Ulster’s Darren Cave will aim to nail down his place when he starts for Ireland against Romania at Wembley

Despite losing his place for last week's win against Canada, Tommy Bowe is full of confidence ahead of tomorrow's clash with Romania, according to his coach Joe Schmidt.

The two-time Lions tourist and 2009 Grand Slam winner spent his off day this week on the rollercoasters at Alton Towers but his World Cup has been anything but an easy ride so far after he was confined to a watching brief at the Millennium Stadium seven days ago, sitting pitch-side while his team-mates racked up a comfortable seven-try victory to begin their campaign.

It was the first time that a fully-fit Bowe hadn't been selected for a frontline Schmidt starting line-up and his usual right-wing spot instead went to Dave Kearney.

The axe came after an indifferent run of form culminated in a below-par performance against England at Twickenham in the final World Cup warm-up, but the 31-year-old has been given another chance to show his quality tomorrow and will start alongside three of his Ulster clubmates.

Darren Cave and Jared Payne are in the centre and Chris Henry will be required at openside flanker against a Romanian back-row that certainly relished the breakdown area against France, while Paddy Jackson will offer cover from the bench.

It is a second consecutive World Cup to feature an Ireland side with a quartet of Ulster starters after Tom Court, Rory Best, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe took on USA in New Plymouth four years ago, while it is also the oldest ever starting XV at the tournament.

Speaking yesterday at St George's Park, Schmidt said: "Tommy is really enthusiastic.

"He just wants to get his hands on the ball, he wants some involvement.

"We know the quality of player that Tommy is. I don't think Tommy has lost any confidence.

"What he did for us this time last year in the autumn internationals and the Six Nations, we have a good indication of what he can do."

With Payne one of three men to retain their starting place - the others being Jamie Heaslip and Keith Earls - he will play outside Cave with Ulster's centre pairing given the chance to flourish on the world stage.

Indeed, only Ian Madigan getting the nod ahead of Jackson to replace the rested Johnny Sexton stopped Ulster from seeing their first-choice 10-12-13 axis take the field against Lynn Howells' men.

"Jared is playing really well," Schmidt affirmed shortly before his squad left their Burton-on-Trent base for London. "He hasn't played a huge amount in the pre-season or pre-World Cup Test matches so it's just continue as he is. I thought he had a really good game last week.

"The other guys (to keep their places), Keith Earls had a super game last week. Now that he's back involved he wants to get a bit of rhythm to make sure he's in sync with the other guys. Jamie is one of our leaders. When we decided not to start Paul (O'Connell), one back-rower was going to have to back up and Jamie was an obvious choice to lead.

"It's a great opportunity for Darren Cave.

"Darren played really well in that first pre-World Cup Test match and I think it's a super opportunity for him and for us to see Darren play."

Cave's World Cup debut comes only after Luke Fitzgerald was selected last week to fill a Robbie Henshaw-sized hole in Ireland's midfield despite the Ulster 28-year-old being brought to the tournament in order to cover the centre positions.

Having put that disappointment behind him, Cave will be out to impress while Schmidt also confirmed that Henshaw's hamstring was healed but he would not feature after missing training earlier in the week.

"He's really good," Schmidt explained.

"Robbie I think is fit to play, it's that he missed the early part of the week.

"Therefore, I think there's a couple of them that we left out partly as a precaution, partly because they haven't had the time running along with the team.

"It was just that at the start of the week, we felt that we had to take it a little bit easier.

"We thought he'd be up and running. He is fully running now and we just felt that we'd rather not push ahead.

"Soft tissue injuries can be quite complicated and if you get a re-injury, then you are really in a situation when his World Cup is in doubt.

"This way, we feel that we've taken no risks. There are times to probably take risks."

Although not in the 23, Iain Henderson, Sexton and Peter O'Mahony were all back in action yesterday with the former Leinster boss confirming that the trio had been fit to be included after they too missed training earlier in the week.

"All three of those guys trained absolutely fully today," he said.

"They're fit to play and fit to be selected but today was the first full training that they took part in."

Belfast Telegraph

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