Conor Murray is named at 9
The Ireland team to play Samoa in the final game of Pool A in Fukuoka has been named. Robbie Henshaw returns to the starting line up for the first time since the pre-tournament win over Wales. Henshaw is partnered in the centre by Bundee Aki. (Kick off on Saturday October 12, is at 11.45am Irish time and the game is live on RTE/Eir Sport and ITV)
Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray form a familiar and experienced half back partnership, starting their 55th Ireland test together, equaling the record set by the Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer partnership.
While in the back three Jordan Larmour is at full-back with Keith Earls, who won his 80th cap last time out, and Jacob Stockdale on the wings.
Rory Best returns to captain the team and he is joined in the front row by Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong.
Iain Henderson and James Ryan are again partnered in the second row while the back-row sees CJ Stander at No. 8 with Tadhg Beirne starting on the blindside flank and Josh van der Flier named at openside.
Niall Scannell, David Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter are the replacement front rows while Jean Kleyn and Peter O’Mahony will cover lock and back row.
Joey Carbery is included in the replacements after a late withdrawal against Russia. Luke McGrath and Andrew Conway complete the backline cover.
After training on Thursday, the Ireland squad learned that the two other matches scheduled for Saturday have been cancelled, with a question mark over the other game in their pool the following day.
“There was a lot of talk amongst the players post training when we found out,” Schmidt said, adding: “We’ve got to make sure that our game gets finished with the right result for us.”
Schmidt said full-back Rob Kearney was managed in training this week, so Jordan Larmour returns to the starting line-up, having impressed against the Scots when Kearney was also carrying a niggle.
Seven of the eight forwards who started Ireland’s only impressive performance of the tournament so far – against Scotland in the opening game – will face the already eliminated Samoans. The exception is Peter O’Mahony, who is on the replacements bench.
“We’ve gone with the guys who could give us the best preparation into the game,” Schmidt said at the team announcement on Thursday. Centre Garry Ringrose started the first three pool games and the coach added: “You can’t expect people to keep on keeping on. Robbie (Henshaw) is fresh and we’re excited to have him in there.”
While Ireland know that a five-point return from the fixture will guarantee them at least second place in the pool, they will be acutely aware that a victory without a bonus point could potentially see them miss out.
In any case, they will have to wait until Sunday before knowing their fate. Should the Japan v Scotland game fall foul of Hagibis, the hosts would top the pool and Ireland would face a quarter-final against holders New Zealand on Saturday, 19 October.
“It’s not something I can control,” Schmidt said of the disruption caused by Typhoon Hagibis. “I only know what we need to do. It’s a situation nobody wanted to have and there will be a couple of teams that are massively disappointed.”
“From that perspective that’s disappointing, but from our perspective all we can do is what we can control.”
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Samoa, 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A, Fukuoka Hakatanamori Stadium):
15. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 19 caps
14. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 80 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 38 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 22 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 23 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 86 caps
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 76 caps
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 93 caps
2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) 122 caps CAPTAIN
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 39 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 51 caps
5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 21 caps
6. Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 11 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 21 caps
8. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 36 caps
16. Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 18 caps
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 34 caps
18. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 21 caps
19. Jean Kleyn (Munster) 4 caps
20. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 62 caps
21. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 17 caps
22. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 20 caps
23. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 17 caps