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Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has made three changes for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final showdown with New Zealand in Tokyo.
Despite Jordan Larmour’s superb performance in the win over Samoa, Schmidt has opted for the experience of 94-cap Rob Kearney at full-back as Ireland aim to reach the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time.
Larmour is one of three backs on the bench, alongside Joey Carbery and Luke McGrath.
Robbie Henshaw will partner returning Leinster team-mate Garry Ringrose at centre in the absence of the suspended Bundee Aki, whose tournament is over, the IRFU has accepted. Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale are on the wings.
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Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray will start their 56th international together at half back, a record.
The only change in the pack is the return of former Lions captain Peter O’Mahony (64 caps) in place of his Munster team-mate Tadhg Beirne (12), who is among the replacements.
The front row remains Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan will partner Iain Henderson in the engine room, and O’Mahony and CJ Stander are outside Josh van der Flier on the flanks.
Twelve of the team that beat New Zealand in Dublin last November are included overall, Aki, Kieran Marmion and Devin Toner having started that day.
Schmidt admitted that it had been a tight call to select Rob Kearney ahead of Jordan Larmour.
“Yeah, there were probably half a dozen reasonably tight selection decisions,” said the head coach. “And you weigh up the experiences, previous performances against other opposition.
“You can’t guarantee you’ve got any decision right until the game is completed.
“Chris Farrell has been very good for us, really come on and made an influ
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