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Players like Rob Herring have a chance to impress me, says Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt believes that this weekend's Test against Australia is a great opportunity for the likes of Ulster's Rob Herring "to put their hand up".

Ahead of tomorrow's first meeting with the Wallabies in Brisbane (11am UK time), Schmidt has made six changes to the side that secured a Grand Slam in Twickenham back in March, with a large number of the Leinster contingent that won both the Guinness PRO14 and Champions Cup given a breather to start the tour, in addition to Rory Best missing out through the hamstring strain that saw him remain at home.

It means an all changed front-row with props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong on the bench, replaced in the starting line-up by Jack McGrath and John Ryan, while Herring takes over from his Ulster team-mate Best.

It will be the South Africa-born hooker's fourth cap, but just his second start and by far his biggest opportunity to impress Schmidt just a little over a year out from the World Cup.

The other big call made by the Kiwi coach chasing Ireland's first series win in Australia since 1979 is to start Munster-bound Joey Carbery at No.10 with Johnny Sexton held in reserve.

"It was trying to get a balance," said Schmidt.

"We decided that it was an opportunity that would probably be more difficult to engineer during the tour because now is the longest window of preparation. We trained last Thursday in Dublin, then we really trained fully on Tuesday and Thursday of this week.

"Within those three training sessions, it gave Joey an opportunity to slot himself in there, as it did for John Ryan and Rob Herring in a similar vein. It's probably a good opportunity for some of those people to put their hand up.

"It was similar to the decision making in some of the other positions, like Tadhg.

"Some of those guys have had some reasonably tough weeks, it was an opportunity really."

Carbery has won 10 caps for Ireland since making his debut against the All Blacks in 2016, but only two from the start - against the USA last summer and Fiji in November.

The 22-year-old will join Munster from Leinster next season in a bid to get more game time at out-half after he turned down the chance to move to Ulster.

"One of the things with Joey, we really wanted to get him out there at No.10 at some stage and we thought that the best window was to give him the longest preparation window possible," said Schmidt.

"It was a surprise to myself that Joey decided to go to Munster. We didn't realise that he was going to get that opportunity, we'd already talked about giving him this opportunity, so we decided to forge ahead with it."

Sexton has long been considered Ireland's most important player, his injury in the last World Cup something of an eye-opener highlighting the need to develop greater depth.

His ability to manage the game is second to none, and while Carbery is seen as more of an unpredictable talent, Schmidt disagrees that Ireland will require a change of style.

"Probably not as much as people think," said Schmidt. "I think Johnny has developed into a really good running threat when you look at some of the opportunities he took in the Six Nations, just as Joey would be seen as a running threat.

"I think defensively Joey has played a lot at full-back and he'd be very used to that high-speed tackle that's often very difficult to make, especially when someone has got two options to go left or right.

"You've got to stay really balanced and try to limit them to one option.

"So, manipulating an attacking player and trying to get that tackle in - Joey is very good at it.

"Johnny is very good at it because invariably for us he ended up defending on the edge quite often which happens with a lot of teams. Bernard Foley does it really well for the Wallabies.

"I guess it's the maturity, really. Johnny runs a really solid game. People are deferential to Johnny because he has been in the seat for a long time.

"But if he has been in the seat for a long time and no one else gets to sit in it, then we just leave ourselves a little bit exposed if he's not in the seat.

"It's a super opportunity for young Joey to try and make sure that he learns a bit with each opportunity he does get."

Ireland team to play Australia in First Test: R Kearney; K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Carbery, C Murray; J McGrath, R Herring, Jo Ryan; I Henderson, Ja Ryan; P O'Mahony (capt), J Murphy, CJ Stander.

Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, T Furlong, Q Roux, J Conan, K Marmion, J Sexton, J Larmour.

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