Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has named his team for the crunch Rugby World Cup clash against France in Cardiff on Sunday, and said his players are relishing the pressure.
Schmidt’s men will be hoping to get one over on their Pool D rivals, as the winner will gain a more favourable quarter final draw against Argentina instead of being paired with two-time world cup winners New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Devin Toner comes in in place of Iain Henderson alongside captain Paul O’Connell, with Rob Kearney favoured at full-back instead of Simon Zebo.
At a press conference on Friday, Schmidt likened the selection process to undertaking a difficult balancing act.
He said he was mindful of picking a team capable of getting a result against the French and topping the pool, while resting up players for the quarter finals.
We have a guaranteed game next week, and whatever game that is we want to make sure we have a fully fit squad.
Asked if his side were feeling the pressure going into the game, Schmidt said:
I think the players respond really well to pressure and there is a strong core of leadership in the group.
I’d say they are conscious of the pressure but more excited about the challenge.
He added that Ireland cannot afford to be loose with the ball on Sunday, admitting his players will have to be focused and on top form against a strong French team.
I think if you can be really accurate against such a powerful team it doesn’t give them as much access.
Once they get momentum they are very, very difficult to get at.”