TOKYO (AFP) – Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw will replace banned centre Bundee Aki for their World Cup quarter-final against defending champions New Zealand tomorrow.
Aki was banned for three games for a high tackle in Ireland’s final pool match against Samoa, his World Cup coming to an end after the Irish Rugby Football Union decided yesterday not to appeal the ban.
Coach Joe Schmidt named an otherwise strong side to take on the All Blacks, with Henshaw partnering Garry Ringrose in midfield.
“There are probably four or five, maybe half-a-dozen, reasonably tight selection decisions,” said Schmidt.
“You weigh up the experience, previous performances against particular opposition and combinations and you make a decision that is what you believe is the best informed you can make.
“We’ve tried to add up as best we can the combinations that will best serve us in this particular fixture.”
Hooker Rory Best will skipper the team, with Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong joining him in the front row.
Iain Henderson and James Ryan pack down at lock with Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander in the back row.
The experienced duo of Conor Murray and World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton were named at half-back, while Rob Kearney, at fullback, Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale fill the back three.
“There are a host of challenges for us,” admitted Schmidt. “The All Blacks are always raising the bar and everyone else is chasing the bar.”
Ireland have beaten New Zealand twice in their last three fixtures, but coach Schmidt warned his side about resting on their laurels.