JOE SCHMIDT HAS named his team to face England at Twickenham on Saturday in their final World Cup warm-up fixture. View the matchday 23 in full here.

Healy held back

Though he has been given the all clear to play and has been taking part in the contact and scrummaging portions of Ireland’s training in the last two weeks, Cian Healy will be held back this weekend.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It presents us with the fascinating prospect of once-capped Tadhg Furlong being used off the bench at loosehead in what would be his first professional outing in that position. A specialist tighthead, Furlong would have a demanding task on his hands against the English.

For Schmidt and scrum coach Greg Feek, late on in Saturday’s game might just be the ideal moment to find out whether Furlong is truly ready to do something similar in the World Cup.

Payne and Henshaw reunite

Schmidt has referred to his centre partnership as a “manufactured” one, which perhaps belies Henshaw’s history in the centre as a youth. Nonetheless, it is true that both Henshaw and Payne had had more recent history at fullback before being moved to midfield for Ireland last season.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The results ever since have been strong, although one senses that there is more to come from Ireland’s centre, particularly in attack. Henshaw has been impactful in defence, while Payne has gone about his job with extreme levels of competency.

There may be scope for Henshaw and Payne to read each other’s intentions in attack more intuitively now, perhaps pick a better support line or find their partner with a short offload. Brad Barritt will hope to ensure that doesn’t happen of course.

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This month has been all about holding things back, not just from Ireland. Any team willing to expose their most lethal strike moves or most testing shapes in phase play is well aware that opposition analysts will pick them apart before the World Cup.

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That said, there is nothing like match practice to ensure that those elements of a team’s intended game plan actually work under pressure. Ireland famously train with Test-like intensity under Schmidt, but the Kiwi may just expose a few more ideas on Saturday.

Early last month, assistant coach Simon Easterby stated that Ireland had to find a balance between keeping Pool D opponents guessing and allowing the team to actually practice in matches what they have trained for at Carton House.

We will watch that aspect of Saturday’s fixture with interest, from an England point of view too.

Zebo at 15 again

While Simon Zebo filled Ireland’s 11 shirt for nine consecutive Tests last season, he will now have two further starts at 15 under his belt before the World Cup. Rob Kearney remains number one, but with no Felix Jones in the squad Schmidt gives Zebo another run.

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There remains slight uncertainty over Ireland’s wing positions for the biggest games at the World Cup, with Dave Kearney in good form, Keith Earls having looked sharp too and Fitzgerald scoring a try against the Scots in Dublin last month.

Interestingly, it’s Kearney who starts for a second week running, possibly benefiting from Schmidt’s choice to play Zebo at 15. Kearney is the man in form and fitness, another strong showing might nail down his World Cup starting spot.

Over on the right wing, Schmidt will expect a much-improved showing from the experienced Tommy Bowe, under whom the head coach lit a fire over recent weeks. Bowe will be confident in his ability to deliver as the pressure comes on.

Bench contenders

Darren Cave was the beneficiary of Schmidt’s decision to bring only two recognised scrum-halves to the World Cup and is likely to get a chunk of game time off the bench against England.

Ryan gets stuck into maul practice. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A week after Jordi Murphy admitted to disappointment at how he handled the breakdown battle against Wales, Chris Henry will provide the back-up to Sean O’Brien, eager for a chance to hammer a few rucks.

Donnacha Ryan is in a similar boat, particularly after Iain Henderson was so excellent against the Welsh. The World Cup squad is picked but there remains a depth of competition in this Ireland group.

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