Andrew Conway is set to start the biggest Test match of his career on Sunday as he is poised to be chosen as Ireland’s full-back against Scotland in Yokohama.
Defence coach Andy Farrell had suggested at a media conference on Wednesday that the injury scare surrounding veteran Rob Kearney was not threatening his availability for the World Cup pool opener in Japan.
They also put forward Keith Earls, another injury doubt, for media duties on Thursday to try and further muddy the selection waters.
However, Joe Schmidt will be fielding a back three consisting of Conway, Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale as they attempt to derail the Scots in the Pool A encounter.
Conway, 28, has started on nine occasions in his 15-match Test career but his two biggest outings came on the wing, starting in Dublin against South Africa in November 2017 and again against Australia in Melbourne seven months later.
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His only previous Test start at full-back happened more than two years ago, Conway wearing the No15 shirt in the June 2017 Tokyo win over Japan.
Kearney had impressed in Ireland’s September 7 warm-up win over Wales in Dublin, a victory that catapulted Schmidt's side to No1 in the World Rugby rankings, but the full-back's calf muscle situation means he will now be one of five players missing from that Aviva Stadium XV when Schmidt confirms his team to face Scotland.
RugbyPass had revealed last Saturday that Robbie Henshaw would not be involved for the World Cup opener after damaging a hamstring in training. His place will go to Garry Ringrose, who last started alongside Bundee Aki in midfield when Ireland were routed 57-15 by England last month at Twickenham.
With Larmour keeping his place on the right wing, Earls will give way to Stockdale on the left. The two other changes come in the pack where Iain Henderson will partner James Ryan at second row at the expense of Jean Kleyn, while Jack Conan misses out in a back row where CJ Stander will switch from blindside to No8 to accommodate the return of Peter O’Mahony.
IRELAND (probable, versus Scotland)
A Conway; J Larmour, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, T Furlong, I Henderson, J Ryan, P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander.
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