Henshaw back as Ireland chase key bonus point
A fit-again Robbie Henshaw will make his first World Cup appearance in Japan on Saturday after being named to start in Ireland’s crucial match against Samoa in Fukuoka.
Ireland needs a bonus-point win to ensure they qualify before the final Pool A showdown on Sunday between hosts Japan and Scotland – if Typhoon Hagibis allows it to proceed.
“We can’t control what happens with the Japan-Scotland game, so on Saturday it’s up to us to get our business done as best we can,” coach Joe Schmidt said when naming his side on Thursday.
Ireland-Samoa, played in the country’s southwest likely to be spared by Hagibis, is the only game on Saturday to go ahead and Pool A is the only pool with qualification still up for grabs.
If Ireland win without a bonus point it will put them at risk of finishing third despite losing only one game as the pool goes down to the wire with Japan on 14, Ireland on 11 and Scotland on 10.
The return of the 38-Test centre Henshaw, who suffered a hamstring injury soon after arriving in Japan, is one of 11 changes from the side that beat Russia 35-0 as Schmidt zeroes in on his first-choice lineup.
“Robbie is fresh and we’re excited to have him in there.
“It is a little bit about balancing the load as well.”
Halfbacks Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will start together for the 55th time.
Sexton, Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne and Keith Earls are the only survivors from the Russia match while hooker Rory Best returns to captain Ireland.
The cancellation of the Pool B match between New Zealand and Italy means Ireland know that winning the group means a quarterfinal against SA.
Finishing second means they play the All Blacks.
Samoa have made two changes, bringing in prop Logovi’i Mulipola and lock Teofilo Paulo.