CJ Stander has been given his first start and Simon Zebo starts at fullback.
A lot of people didn’t think they would be hearing that today. Stander has been the peoples choice for his outstanding performances for Munster but most believed he would be slowly brought in. They were wrong.
Injuries mean Zebo takes Kearney’s sport, while Tommy O’Donnell fills in for Sean O’Brien. No place in the team however for one Stuart McCloskey.
Schmidt spoke to the press today and explained his selection. On Stander he said:
“CJ has been fitting in really well. He is certainly a committed character… we felt it would be a good mix for us in the absence of Sean O’Brien.
“There is nothing like the senior Test match arena to see how a player equips themselves.”
On Zebo’s selection:
“We expect that they will kick on him a lot. He’s very good in the air and, like Rob, he’s got that good left boot on him.”
On McCloskey’s exclusion:
“We looked hard at the Stuart McCloskey-Luke Marshall combination as a second [option]… but the two guys did well against Wales last year. Jared made a lot of metres and Robbie was one of our go-to players.”
Do you agree with Schmidt’s selection?