Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is taking nothing for granted in the World Cup Pool D opener against Canada, naming a near first-choice team for the clash at Cardiff\’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
One player missing from the line-up, however, will be star centre Robbie Henshaw, who sits out the Canada game after picking up a slight hamstring injury.
Facing what Schmidt said would likely be the danger of free-running, often sevens-trained backs and a solid forward power base centred around his former Clermont charge and Canada captain Jamie Cudmore, the Kiwi coach had no doubts about picking his strongest side.
"That mix for us means that we can\’t afford to give them turnover ball because they\’ll play effectively off it," he warned.
Henshaw, however, pulled up at the end of training on Tuesday and Luke Fitzgerald was rushed in as his replacement, with Darren Cave rested.
"Robbie felt his hamstring tighten a little bit," said Schmidt.
"We got it scanned and there\’s a little bit of blood there. He\’s ok to walk and jog around but he does feel that tightness when he\’s accelerating.
"It\’d be a real risk to push him ahead and we\’re quietly confident he should be okay by next Sunday (September 27 against Romania)."
Full-back Rob Kearney regains his starting spot after being rested in the final warm-up match against England, Simon Zebo dropping to the bench.
Prop Cian Healy is also named among the replacements, Jack McGrath starting at loosehead as his Leinster teammate eases back into action following long-standing neck problems.
Veteran lock Paul O\’Connell captains the side and will pack down alongside Ulster\’s Iain Henderson, McGrath accompanied in the front row by hooker Rory Best and tighthead Mike Ross.
Jamie Heaslip anchors a powerful, first-choice backrow featuring Sean O\’Brien and Peter O\’Mahony on the flanks.
Connor Murray resumes his slick half-back partnership with fly-half Jonathan Sexton, Schmidt resisting the urge to give their understudies Eoin Reddan or Ian Madigan a run-out against the Canadians.
New Zealand-born Jared Payne combines with Fitzgerald in midfield, while David Kearney and Keith Earls are named on the wings.
After the Canada game, Ireland go on to play Romania in Wembley, Italy at the Olympic Stadium on October 4 and arguably the pool-topping decider against France back at the Millennium Stadium on October 11.
Skipper O\’Connell may be in his fourth World Cup, but he said the excitement was greater than his first experience in 2003.
"Coming over it was like a bunch of guys going on a school tour, it was a very giddy flight and bus trip to the hotel here!" the Munster lock laughed.
"Preparation\’s gone really well for the team and for myself… it\’s nice to get here and get here in good shape as well, having played a good few games and having trained for 10, 11 weeks.
"The excitement is massive, probably more than the first one (in 2003) because I know there\’s no more to come."
Rob Kearney; David Kearney, Jared Payne, Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O\’Brien, Peter O\’Mahony; Paul O\’Connell (capt), Iain Henderson; Mike Ross, Rory Best, Jack McGrath
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Nathan White, Donnacha Ryan, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Simon Zebo
Coach: Joe Schmidt (NZL)