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In the event Schmidt has made just two changes from the line-up I predicted above. Cian Healy is in instead of Jack McGrath in what was always going to be a toss up selection. The other is the inclusion of Ryan instead of Toner.

Never could there have been a clearer indication of Ireland's growing strength in depth than the dropping of Devin Toner despite the exclusion of Donncha Ryan and Tadhg Beirne from the squad.

Toner has never had a bad game for Ireland, fits unto the game plan, nearly always plays the full 80, and rarely gets injured. He more or less guarantees you good line-out ball, has good hands and contributes around the pitch even if his sheer height limits his ability to make the hard yards.

James Ryan, on the other hand, has played only a handful of matches for either Leinster or Ireland, and has been injured a lot during his short career. It is not in Schmidt's nature to take risks, particularly against France away, so he must rate him very highly indeed.

Let's hope Ryan does well against a very physical French pack. This is going to be some baptism of fire, but at least he has a very experienced pack around him, and the experience of winning in France.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2018 at 04:07:40 PM EST
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