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Murphy starts at No 8 for Ireland
27 Feb 2015 17:05
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made one change to his starting team for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash with England, bringing in Jordi Murphy for the injured Jamie Heaslip at No 8.
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Heaslip broke three vertebrae against France and is ruled out of action until the Wales game at the earliest. But through difficulty comes opportunity and Murphy now has the chance to nail down his place as Schmidt's second choice No 8.
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In the front row, Jack McGrath retains his place despite pressure from Cian Healy for the loosehead spot. Rory Best and Mike Ross make up the rest of the front row at hooker and tighthead respectively.
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Captain Paul O'Connell packs down beside Devin Toner in the engine room. And alongside Murphy in the back row Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien retain their spots at blind-side and open-side flanker.
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Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will again form the half-back partnership, with Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne in midfield.
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The back row once more consists of Rob Kearney at full-back, with Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo named on the wings.
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On the bench, Schmidt makes two changes to the seven that filled the replacement jerseys against France.
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With Murphy moving into the first XV, Tommy O'Donnell slots in as back row cover. And at scrum-half, Eoin Reddan has been drafted in ahead of Isaac Boss, who instead captains Leinster against Ospreys in the Pro12 this evening.
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The other five replacements are as they were last weekend. Sean Cronin covers hooker, Healy covers loose-head and Marty Moore is the tight-head cover.
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Iain Henderson is second row replacement, also providing an extra option at blind-side should that be needed. Ian Madigan covers out-half and centre and Felix Jones is the final man in the squad as the back three replacement.
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Schmidt has been blessed with injury in the first two rounds of the championship, with his side escaping almost any damage, bar Heaslip's setback. This virtually injury-free period means that in the first three rounds he will only have used 27 players.
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Ireland boss Schmidt insisted McGrath has been selected on merit, despite Healy still fighting back to full match fitness.
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"Sure, Jack has been the stand-out player at times," said Schmidt, confirming the call at loosehead came down to performance level alone.
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"We did have temptation in a couple of areas, but when it comes to players who are performing in their slot, it's pretty hard to go past them in terms of selection. But, that said, no one owns a jersey. There's always temptation to change things up but I think Jack has done a super job.
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"He was probably the stand-out player for us against SA, and he has played his way right through. I know that the coaching staff have genuine faith in him, and Cian is still very short of game time.
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"Each time he gets game time he will keep improving.
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"We had to recess our meeting this week to have a bit of spell to sort out those decisions in our own minds that we're talking about right now. It does make it a headache albeit a welcome one."
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Schmidt also admitted Ireland will miss British and Irish Lions star Heaslip, the country's most-capped number eight, especially against England's bullish back-row.
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"We will miss Jamie Heaslip's experience to be honest; he's very much a big-game player with big-game temperament," said Schmidt.
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"That allows us to be a little bit more organised. So it's a big challenge for Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien to help Jordi map his way around the pitch.
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"Jordi Murphy's very quiet, he doesn't really say a lot, gets on with the job and other people, he's a workaholic around the pitch. He gets through a lot of work both sides of the ball, and that's important."
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Ireland XV to play England: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Jordi Murphy.
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Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Marty Moore, Iain Henderson, Tommy O’Donnell, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Felix Jones.
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