Ireland's Six Nations Grand Slam winning captain Rory Best returns to lead his country for the Test with Argentina after missing the tour of Australia
Maynooth (Ireland) (AFP) - Six Nations Grand Slam winning captain Rory Best and injury-prone flanker Sean O’Brien earned recalls from head coach Joe Schmidt to Ireland’s starting XV for Saturday’s one-off Test with Argentina.
Grizzled hooker Best, 36, returns after missing the 2-1 Test series win in Australia with a hamstring problem while O’Brien sat out both the Six Nations and the tour Down Under with hip and shoulder injuries respectively.
“He (O’Brien) has brought a lot of experience into the group after a tough time with injuries,” said prop Tadhg Furlong at a press conference.
“He has the leadership skills and has taken no time to shouting orders in his high-pitched voice.”
Despite Luke McGrath impressing in the 54-7 victory over Italy in Chicago last Saturday it is the more experienced Kieran Marmion who starts at scrum-half alongside star fly-half Jonathan Sexton, whose regular half-back partner Conor Murray has not been selected as a neck injury has prevented him from playing this season
“He (Marmion) is the experienced guy,” said Schmidt.
“He is the guy who stepped in for Conor (Murray) two years ago two days before the England game (Ireland won in Dublin to deny the English the Grand Slam).
“He is a great little player for us.”
With an eye on the mouth-watering clash with world champions New Zealand on Saturday week, Schmidt has restored most of the team that clinched the Grand Slam at Twickenham earlier this year, although fullback Rob Kearney is absent because of a shoulder injury.
Jordan Larmour retains the starting spot in that position after a barn-storming, three-try performance against the Italians.
“This is very much a step up for him,” said Schmidt.
“He has gained in confidence on the back of his performances coming on as a replacement in the match with England earlier this year and the third Test against Australia.
“He acquitted himself very well last week.”
The hosts will be looking for a confidence-boosting victory ahead of the All Blacks clash over a Pumas side that emerged from The Rugby Championship with two victories – including their first in Australia since 1983.
Argentina have proved a thorn in Ireland’s side on several occasions in the World Cup – most recently in the 2015 quarter-finals – although they came out on the wrong side of a 28-19 defeat at Lansdowne Road in November last year.
Ireland team to play Argentina at Lansdowne Road on Saturday (15-1, kick-off 1830GMT):
Jordan Larmour; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jonathan Sexton, Kieran Marmion; CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony; James Ryan, Iain Henderson; Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best (capt), Cian Healy
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Dan Leavy, Luke McGrath, Joey Carbery, Andrew Conway
Coach: Joe Schmidt (NZL)