“I would expect up to four of five changes.”
After all the hype and momentum that built up around the Ireland team, in the past few weeks, the players, coaches, support staff and fans are all resting up this weekend.
With each pool having five sides, most teams have been afforded the opportunity to rest up. Andy Farrell gave his players three days off, to explore France and catch up with families and friends. They reassembled on Thursday and the focus switched to Scotland.
On House of Rugby, the panel had Scotland on their minds, too, and possible team changes [LISTEN from 24:30] were discussed by Johne Murphy and Sene Naoupu.
Potential Ireland team changes
Ireland are in pole position to top World Cup Pool B after their 13-8 win over South Africa. The Springboks should see off Tonga, this weekend, to keep a bit of pressure on the Irish and Scotland are convinced destiny is in their own hands.
There is nothing more Scotland would like than to smash over the apple cart with a shock win over Ireland, but they may need to win with a bonus point and deny Ireland a losing one to progress. As for Ireland team changes, Sene Naoupu would like to see the pack freshened up.
“I’d like to see a few changes, and guys coming in to share the load, especially in the front row,” the former Leinster and Ireland star said. “Someone like Andrew Porter was outstanding against South Africa, so whether he starts the game or not.
“I’d say perhaps someone like Finlay Bealham coming in, and Jack Conan in the back row. In the centres, you have someone like Robbie Henshaw, who can easily come in without making a dent to the team performance. I’d be interested, too, in seeing who the 10 is, on the bench backing up Johnny Sexton.”
“It’s probably worthwhile having someone like Jimmy O’Brien involved, in terms of his versatility and what he covers at 23,” added Johne Murphy.
“That then gives you more options on the bench. For me, I wouldn’t worry too much about too many changes because when you sit down to pick the 23 from 33 that are out there, you can make a case for more or less everyone.
“You look at how well Conor Murray played when he came on [against South Africa]. Does he start? There are many different arguments for almost every player, and it’s hard to pick that  but I do think it’s important that lads are getting enough match time that if they are asked to come on very early on, hopefully, in a quartr final that they don’t gas themselves. You need that match fitness, particularly across those front row guys, so that they are ready to step up.
“You’d imagine that with Rónan Kelleher, now matter how well he played [against South Africa], Dan Sheehan was probably going to start against Scotland anyway… he needs to get his match fitness up to, in his position, a good 60 minutes.”
Aside from Jack Conan and Jimmy O’Brien, the only other player not to have World Cup minutes is Stuart McCloskey. The Ulster centre had started seven out of nine Tests, ahead of the England match in the RWC warm-ups, and could definitely do a job if called upon.
POSSIBLE IRELAND TEAM (vs. SOUTH AFRICA)
15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Jamison Gibson-Park
1. Andrew Porter
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan
Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, David Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Caelan Doris, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O’Brien.
Andy Farrell will officially announce his Ireland team on Thursday afternoon.
HOUSE OF RUGBY WITH JOHNE MURPHY & SENE NAOUPU