Teams are up for Ireland’s opening Rugby World Cup 2015 fixture, against Canada, which takes place Saturday afternoon at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Kick off 2:30 pm, live on UTV.

Ireland have been handed the easiest of groups with a nice progression of fixtures and the final pool game, against France, the only one that should really matter. If it’s not the decider as to whether Ireland go on to face New Zealand or Argentina then something will have gone seriously wrong.

The schedule gives Ireland’s coach Joe Schmidt plenty of opportunities to continue to tinker as, under normal circumstances, any team that Schmidt puts out should be capable of a comfortable victory against the Canadians.

Four Ulster players involved in this one. Jared Payne, Rory Best and Ian Henderson to start with Chris Henry benching.

However the opening game of the World Cup brings it’s own set of circumstances and challenges and I’m pleased to see that Schmid has selected his strongest available pack and first choice half backs.

Canada will have been targeting this one for some time and their robust style of play is likely to cause Ireland some issues, especially if Ireland get involved in an arm wrestle up front. No mater how appealing, they must resist the many charms of Canadian captain Jamie Cudmore when he throws down a physical challenge!

The Canadian’s experienced wingers, Jeff Hassler and DTH van der Merwe, will be relishing the opportunity at having a one on one against Dave Kearney and Keith Earls but with none of the four wingers particularly renowned for their defence the Irish pair will be equally confident with the ball in hand.  However I suspect that most chances, for both sides, will come from an over enthusiastic Luke Fitzgerald who is likely to provide an equal number of holes in both defences.

The FRU Predicts: Ireland’s half backs and pack should be too battle hardened for the limited arsenal that Canada have at their disposal, no matter how enthusiastically it is applied!

IRELAND CANADA
Rob Kearney 15 Matt Evans
Dave Kearney 14 Jeff Hassler
Jared Payne 13 Ciaran Hearn
Luke Fitzgerald 12 Nick Blevins
Keith Earls 11 DTH vd Merwe
Jonathan Sexton 10 Nathan Hirayama
Conor Murray 9 Gordon McRorie
Jack McGrath 1 Hubert Buydens
Rory Best 2 Ray Barkwill
Mike Ross 3 Doug Wooldridge
Iain Henderson 4 Brett Beukeboom
Paul O’Connell 5 Jamie Cudmore
Peter O’Mahony 6 Kyle Gilmour
Sean O’Brien 7 John Moonlight
Jamie Heaslip 8 Aaron Carpenter
Sean Cronin 16 Benoit Piffero
Cian Healy 17 Djustice Sears-Duru
Nathan White 18 Andrew Tiedemann
Donnacha Ryan 19 Jebb Sinclair
Chris Henry 20 Richard Thorpe
Eoin Reddan 21 Phil Mack
Ian Madigan 22 Liam Underwood
Simon Zebo 23 Conor Trainor

#SUFTUM