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Ulster star Henderson to start for Ireland against Canada

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt looks set to reward Iain Henderson's flying form with a start against Canada on Saturday when he names a strong Ireland team for their World Cup opener.

Captain Paul O'Connell is expected to partner the Ulster power-house in the second-row in Cardiff as he leads the side into the campaign alongside a host of the men who have delivered back-to-back Six Nations success.

Henderson was the standout player in the warm-up game against Wales and has a chance to make the No4 jersey his own as Devin Toner misses out.

He could go on to be a star of the tournament.

Cian Healy looks like making his return from neck surgery off the bench as Schmidt keeps faith with Jack McGrath, Ulster skipper Rory Best and Mike Ross up front, while the first-choice back-row of Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip are likely to line up together.

Healy has not played since Leinster's Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Toulon last April, but has trained for the last number of weeks and should get an opportunity to prove his fitness at the Millennium Stadium.

Ulster winger Tommy Bowe looks set to pay the price for his poor display in the warm-up defeat by England at Twickenham as Rob Kearney returns from his knee injury to link up with his brother Dave who is the favourite to get the nod on the right wing, while Keith Earls could be chosen on the left with Simon Zebo the likely to cover from the bench.

The rest of the backline is expected to remain unchanged from that final warm-up defeat to the World Cup hosts, with Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Ulster's Jared Payne set to fill the half-back and centre positions.

Possible Ireland team to face Canada: R Kearney; D Kearney; J Payne, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; I Henderson, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Belfast Telegraph


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