Ireland at full strength for RWC opener

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is taking nothing for granted in the World Cup Pool D opener against Canada, naming a near first-choice team for the clash at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Full-back Rob Kearney regains his starting spot after being rested in the final warm-up match against England, Simon Zebo dropping to the bench.

Prop Cian Healy is also named among the replacements, Jack McGrath starting at loosehead as his Leinster teammate eases back into action following long-standing neck problems.

Veteran lock Paul O’Connell captains the side and will pack down alongside Ulster’s Iain Henderson, McGrath accompanied in the front row by hooker Rory Best and tighthead Mike Ross.

Jamie Heaslip anchors a powerful, first-choice backrow featuring Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahoney on the flanks.

Connor Murray resumes his slick half-back partnership with fly-half Jonathan Sexton, Schmidt resisting the urge to give Eoin Reddan or Ian Madigan a run-out against the Canadians.

New Zealand-born Jared Payne combines with Luke Fitzgerald in midfield, while David Kearney and Keith Earls are named on the wings.

There was, however, no place for centre Robbie Henshaw, who picked up a hamstring injury in training on Tuesday.

“We’re quietly confident he’ll be ready for next Sunday (September 27 against Romania),” said Schmidt.

After the Canada game, Ireland go on to play Romania in Wembley, Italy at the Olympic Stadium on October 4 and arguably the pool-topping decider against France back at the Millennium Stadium on October 11.

Ireland: Rob Kearney; David Kearney, Jared Payne, Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony; Paul O’Connell (capt), Iain Henderson; Mike Ross, Rory Best, Jack McGrath. Reps: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Nathan White, Donnacha Ryan, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Simon Zebo

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