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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 K
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