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Luke Marshall call was difficult one, says Ireland manager Joe Schmidt

By Niall Crozier

New Ireland coach Joe Schmidt admitted the decision to omit Ulster's Luke Marshall in favour of Leinster centre Gordon D'Arcy was a particularly difficult call.

And, ironically, Marshall looks to have been a victim of Paddy Jackson's inclusion at outside-half in the absence of Jonny Sexton whose hip flexor problem ruled him out of the first of the three autumnal Guinness Series internationals.

Speaking after announcing his first Ireland line-up, Schmidt revealed: "Probably for Luke, it was a disadvantage that Paddy was there, not that that's any disrespect to Paddy at all, it just meant that we could put experience with Conor and Gordon D'Arcy either side of Paddy, just to try and make that as comfortable as possible rather than having two young guys there together.

"We may not have made the best decisions as a coaching group but we feel we've made the right ones based on the time-frame we have and how hard those guys have worked."

But while Marshall will be disappointed at not having made the match-day 23, four of his Ulster team-mates are in the starting 15 with hooker Rory Best, open-side Chris Henry and right wing Tommy Bowe joining Jackson.

And a fifth – tight-head Declan Fitzpatrick – is on the bench and, as a front row forward, is almost certain to be given game-time against the formidable Samoans.

Schmidt awards a first cap to promising Leinster loose-head, 24-year-old Jack McGrath, who sought to play down his delight by saying: "It's exciting but there's still a job to do. This is the first of three massive games for us as a squad and I think the lads are just raring to go, get out there, impress the coach and, most importantly, get a win."

Expressing his gratitude to Schmidt, who brought him through during his tenure as Leinster coach, McGrath said: "I think, with Joe, he was the one who gave me an opportunity initially and I'll be forever grateful to him for that."

Another uncapped Leinster man – back three player Dave Kearney – is one of the eight replacements and with his brother Rob named at full-back they could end up on the pitch together.

The Irish bench – likely to play a major role on Saturday – also includes Paul O'Connell, the man chosen to captain Schmidt's side this season so his understudy, Jamie Heaslip, will lead against the Samoans as the big Munster man has not recovered sufficiently from his grade one calf muscle tear to play a full 80 minutes .

Schmidt revealed that Brian O'Driscoll ruled himself out of the race to captain Ireland, leaving the door open for O'Connell.

Belfast Telegraph


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