We can do a Barcelona on England: Schmidt
Defiant Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is backing his Six Nations underdogs to 'do a Barcelona' and triumph against the odds by wrecking England's Grand Slam bid and new world record for consecutive wins in tomorrow's 5.00pm Dublin showdown.
Schmidt may have been playing rival England coach Eddie Jones at his renowned mind games as he ranked Ireland's chances of beating England alongside Barcelona's hopes of coming from 4-0 down to beat Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League among other notable recent sporting upsets.
Barca were 10/1 to overcome their deficit at the Camp Nou, while Ireland are 6/4 to derail England's Grand Slam bid despite losing Conor Murray and Rob Kearney.
Kieran Marmion makes his first Six Nations start, Ulster's Jared Payne comes in at full-back for his first appearance for Ireland since damaging his kidney in November and Devin Toner is dropped to accommodate Payne's Kingspan team-mate Iain Henderson.
That puts an already creaking lineout under even more strain, but Schmidt is hoping the Ulster powerhouse's dynamism compensates.
"Any team can be beaten on their day," Schmidt said. "We have seen a bit of that lately. Who would have picked Barcelona to turn around that PSG result? Who would have picked Douvan to get beaten at 4/1 on? Who would have picked us to win in Chicago at 13/1?
"That's what people love about sport. Can we? We have to believe we can. We have got to go out there with that absolute belief that we can and we know that at the same time if we don't get as much as possible right we know that they will be too good."
The decision to leave Toner out of the starting XV was taken to try and freshen up the pack and Schmidt said it wasn't an easy call.
"I had a really good chat with Dev," he said. "He's there on the bench and we've got some good lineout strength coming off the bench and if we need to go to that it's there and available for us.
"It's tough for Dev, but at the same time he's racked up some massive miles and he's just a little bit fatigued at the moment and Iain Henderson is fresh. Donnacha Ryan is fresher."