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Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland are likely to be true to their word, and to each other, in unveiling fairly full-strength sides today for Saturday’s final World Cup warm-up match between Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 2pm).
The two coaches had been in contact before these back-to-back games, agreeing to field somewhat experimental sides last week when Ireland emerged 22-17 winners in the Principality Stadium before each reinstated more of their frontliners this Saturday.
So it is that Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls are all expected to start, so ensuring that all 31 members of Ireland’s World Cup squad have started at least one of the warm-up games.
Schmidt and his coaching ticket see Saturday’s game as the final dress rehearsal for the pivotal World Cup opener against Scotland 15 days later, on September 22nd in Yokohama.
Hence it is likely that Earls will be re-united with Rob Kearney and Jacob Stockdale in the back three, and similarly that Conor Murray will again join Sexton at halfback.
Garry Ringrose having been involved in all three warm-up games to date, and having started the first two at outside centre, it could be that Bundee Aki is re-united with his former Connacht midfield partner in Henshaw at “13”.
Up front, the familiar frontrow of Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong are also likely to start, as they did in Twickenham, and with Devin Toner not having made the cut, and the James Ryan-Iain Henderson partnership seemingly now first choice, it may be given a second outing in succession.
Last Saturday’s game in Cardiff was only the fifth time that the Ryan-Henderson partnership started a Test together, despite first being paired together in November 2017 for the win over Argentina.
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