From the outside, Joe Schmidt's selection for Saturday’s do-or-die quarter-final against New Zealand seems fairly straightforward.

The defeat to Japan ensured that they had to beat Samoa to be sure of progression, so he intimated what his preferred first XV looked like in that game.

The head coach, who will step down after the World Cup, is close to where he wanted to be in terms of squad fitness, but has been dealt a blow with the neck injury to Sean Cronin, who could possibly have been on the bench.

Schmidt also had to plan without regular Bundee Aki, who is suspended. 

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will break the half-back record on Saturday, lining out for the 56th time together.

Aki’s absence will likely result in Robbie Henshaw returning to a familiar role at inside centre, with Garry Ringrose, his Leinster partner, outside.

Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale are Schmidt’s preferred wide men and are big-game players.

If Rob Kearney has recovered fully from the groin strain that saw him miss out last week then he is probably favourite to start ahead of man of the match Jordan Larmour.

Kearney’s innate positional sense is vital to thwarting the lethal attacking force that New Zealand have.

Similarly, the pack is unlikely to be much changed.

The front row of Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong have a mountain of experience and will be locked in by James Ryan and Iain Henderson.

Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander are due to retain their places.

Tadhg Beirne, who impressed against Samoa, may make way for Peter O’Mahony. The Munster skipper, while not hitting the heights this season, was outstanding against New Zealand in 2018 and is a player that the All Blacks fear.

Niall Scannell will take the replacement hooker spot due to Cronin's neck injury, while Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter are the likely back-up props.

There is a decision to be made with the second and back row substitutes, with Beirne’s versatility putting him at an advantage over Jean Kleyn.

Rhys Ruddock, rested last week (we think), may get the nod.

If Kearney is selected ahead of Lamour, then the young Leinster man will most likely be one of the backs replacements alongside Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery.

Possible Ireland team to play New Zealand

Rob Kearney (Age: 33, minutes this World Cup: 117, Recovery time to New Zealand: 16 days)

Keith Earls (32, 240m, 7 days)

Garry Ringrose (24, 240, 16 days)

Robbie Henshaw (26, 61m, 7 days)

Jacob Stockdale (23, 240m, 7 days)

Johnny Sexton (34, 148m, 7 days)

Conor Murray (30, 190m, 7 days)

Cian Healy (32, 146m, 7 days)

Rory Best (37, 188m, 7 days)

Tadhg Furlong (26, 175m, 7 days)

James Ryan (23, 216m, 7 days)

Iain Henderson (27, 223m, 7 days)

Peter O'Mahony (30, 181, 7 days)

Josh van der Flier (26, 226m, 7 days)

CJ Stander (29, 294, 7 days)

Follow Ireland v New Zealand on Saturday 19 October (kick-off 11.15am) via the live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the News Now App, watch live on RTÉ2 or listen to live match commentary on RTÉ Radio 1. 


Follow all four Rugby World Cup quarter-finals this weekend via our live blogs on and the News Now app, or watch live on RTÉ2.