DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ross Byrne will make his first Ireland start in Saturday’s World Cup warm up game against England as coach Joe Schmidt weighs up his backup options at flyhalf in an otherwise near full-strength side.
After Joey Carbery’s readiness for the start of next month’s tournament was put in doubt by an ankle injury suffered in the tune up against Italy two weeks ago, Schmidt is testing out his depth one step further behind first-choice 10 Johnny Sexton.
Byrne, Sexton’s understudy at Leinster who has won just two test caps off the bench against lesser opponents, got the nod to start at Twickenham ahead of Connacht’s Jack Carty, who is similarly lacking in international experience.
Bulky South African-born lock Jean Kleyn gets another chance to stake a claim for a place in the squad for the tournament in Japan as one of only three players to start both opening warm-ups, after a mostly second-string side beat Italy 29-10 in Dublin.
The rest of the team named for the second of four warm-up matches appear almost certain to travel, with all bar five of the side that lost to England in February’s Six Nations opener set to start.
That means Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier are back to make up what will likely be Ireland’s World Cup backrow with the familiar names of Rory Best, Conor Murray and Tadhg Furlong returning elsewhere.
As well as Carty, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Beirne, Luke McGrath and Andrew Conway will all be desperate to make an impression off the bench as they compete for some of the final squad places that appear up for grabs.
After back-to-back games against Grand Slam winners Wales, Ireland begin their Pool A campaign against Scotland on Sept. 22 before facing hosts Japan six days later.
15-Rob Kearney, 14-Jordan Larmour, 13-Garry Ringrose, 12-Bundee Aki, 11-Jacob Stockdale, 10-Ross Byrne, 9-Conor Murray, 8-CJ Stander, 7-Josh van der Flier, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 5-Jean Kleyn, 4-Iain Henderson, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Rory Best (captain), 1-Cian Healy
Replacements: 16-Jack McGrath, 17-Dave Kilcoyne, 18-Andrew Porter, 19-Devin Toner, 20-Tadhg Beirne, 21-Luke McGrath, 22-Jack Carty, 23-Andrew Conway.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Toby Davis)