Thursday, 17 March 2016

Tommy O'Donnell Returns for Ireland

Tommy O'Donnell has been named in Ireland's starting 15 for Saturday's final Six Nations clash with Scotland.

He comes in at number seven ahead of Josh van Der Flier. Otherwise, it's the same side who comprehensively beat Italy last weekend.

"Josh has shipped a couple of knocks in the last two games, he took another knock on Monday. It's been an attritional few weeks for Josh, with big 80 mins back to back. He's fit to play, but carrying a few knocks," said Schmidt.

"Conversely, Tommy has trained very well. He hasn't had the luckiest of preparations in previous times. We're looking forward to him contributing with an athletic performance.

"Josh has involved himself a lot, contact work has been high and we felt it was pertinent to give him a rest.

"We've tried to balance continuity with opportunity during this Six Nations and we're hoping it might bear a bit of fruit down the line."

Rory Best proved his fitness at Ireland’s training session and he will link up with Jack McGrath and Mike Ross in the front-row, with Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner in the engine room and CJ Stander, O'Donnell and Jamie Heaslip in the back-row.

Conor Murray will partner Johnny Sexton as Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne link up in midfield and Keith Earls, Andrew Trimble and Simon Zebo continue in the back three.

The head coach is intent on building as many combinations as possible ahead of the three Test summer tour of South Africa as his side look to maintain their place on the World Rugby rankings table at the end of the competition.

Defeat could have major implications on Ireland’s prospects for the 2019 World Cup, with no decision yet taken on whether the draw will be made at the end of this year.

Schmidt’s side are currently ranked seventh, but with three games against South Africa, two against New Zealand and one each against and Australia to come in 2016, their ranking could take a battering, but victory over ninth-ranked Scotland would give them some breathing space in their bid to remain in the top-eight teams.

S Zebo (Munster), A Trimble, J Payne (both Ulster), R Henshaw (Connacht), K Earls (Munster), J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), M Ross (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster), D Toner (Leinster), CJ Stander (Ulster), T O'Donnell (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: R Strauss, C Healy (both Leinster), N White, U Dillane (both Connacht), R Ruddock, E Reddan, I Madigan, F McFadden (all Leinster).

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