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Earls, O’Mahony and Murray fancied to start but Conan may still pip Stander

JOE Schmidt has a big decision to make when he sits down to name his starting fifteen for the opening game of the three match tour against Australia. Up to now Munster’s CJ Stander has been his favoured number eight but the performances of Jack Conan for Leinster may shift favouritism in his direction.
Otherewise few surprises are expected as Ireland prepare to record their first win on Australian soil over the Wallabies in 11 attempts. The last win there was in 1979.
Schmidt will view this three match test series seriously. He has what looks like the perfect squad with ample cover for almost all positions and others drooling at the mouth at the prospect of seeing his call on their mobiles. The World Cup next year beckons and if current form is be taken seriously, and the stats are proved accurate, Ireland’s golden ticket of a World Cup success may not be just a pipe dream.
Six Nations Grand Slam Champions and Leinster’s double whammy achievers in the Northern hemisphere’s club competitions indicate that this is a special Irish plane load that landed in Brisbane this week and it is going to take a very big effort from Australia to win the series.
Whatever the formation of the matchday squad for Saturday, the ratio of provincial representation is going to be clearly in faovur of Leinster. They could have all of the front five (unless Ian Henderson is chosen over Devin Toner), Sexton will start if fit as will Dave Kearney at full-back while Garry Ringrose, Rob Henshaw (if fit) and with Joey Carbery also hovering around (can we still call him a Leinsterman?) will get the nod if their hands are up.
All the focus of recent weeks has been on this Irish team and their recent achievements. Australia are feeding off it in the high grass. The pride of Australian rugby will be stake here and their off the field issues will surely be put to bed, at the least for the next few weeks.
The Ireland squad arrived into Brisbane, Australia on Saturday and have spent the last two days acclimatizing following the long flight and the nine time zone changes.
On Sunday the squad had a gym session and a light walk through at the Bond University High Performance Training Centre before a day off on Monday.
Rory Best is the only player named in the original squad of 32 who did not travel. Best was replaced in the squad by Munster’s Niall Scannell. All 32 are expected to take part in Tuesday’s first on pitch session in Australia.

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