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RBS 6 Nations: Henderson, Murphy get bench call as Ireland keeps same starters

By Niall Crozier

In a week which saw Barcelona subject Manchester City to a Uefa Champions League lesson at the Etihad Stadium, Irish coach Joe Schmidt is poised to blood a Leinster player with a Catalan connection in the hope of something similar tomorrow at Twickenham (4pm).

Barcelona-born Jordi Murphy – just 22 – is the one uncapped player in Ireland's match-day party for the showdown against England.

He is one of only two changes to the 23 who defeated Wales, the other being Ulster's Iain Henderson who takes over from provincial colleague Dan Tuohy, currently sidelined with a broken right forearm. Murphy's inclusion is at the expense of Munster's Tommy O'Donnell.

Schmidt has given the 15 who started for Ireland in the 26-3 victory over Wales the ultimate vote of confidence with a 'same again' thumbs up.

And having worked with Murphy in his tenure as Leinster coach, Schmidt was able to say: "I don't know if you remember him coming on against Clermont (last season), but he took the game to them and did really, really well. So one of the advantages I guess I have is that I've watched some of these players for quite some time.

"I thought Tommy O'Donnell was really dynamic last year. He's had a very interrupted season and probably is still getting back to where he was last year.

"I think he's similar to Jordi in that he's a very dynamic player and can add real value whether he's starting or on the bench.

"For Jordi, it will be a massive step up but there's no way to escape that.

"I think one of the things about demonstrating your confidence in players and confidence in your wider squad is that it's probably reciprocated by the player.

"They take a confidence in themselves that we've got some faith in them and hopefully that's borne out in their performances.

"One of things with Jordi, he gives us probably more specific Number eight cover.

"He's been playing a fair bit of eight lately so gives us that seven or eight cover.

"It means that Peter O'Mahony doesn't have to worry about covering that eight role, it's covered straight off the bench, so it means we have to do less juggling if something did happen in the seven or eight role."

Explaining his decision to opt for Henderson, again Schmidt pointed to the 22-year-old's ability to play in more than one position.

"Donnacha Ryan came in for two trainings this week and trained the house down. Mike McCarthy trained really well as well, but Iain Henderson is another young gun who we feel has earned an oppurtunity," Schmidt said.

"He has come off the bench for us already in this Six Nations, plus he covers six a bit as well.

"We just feel that it's going to be attritional, it's going to be massively physical and we just feel that we've got a little bit more back row cover as a result, while Iain Henderson can cover Paul and Dev in the second row.

"That's probably the easiest way I can explain it."

And while he admitted there is tension among players in the countdown to a match, Schmidt stressed: "They've managed themselves really well.

"They had a player meeting last night that I observed."

Belfast Telegraph


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