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Joe Schmidt's Selection Has Given Ireland Something We've Never Seen Before

Joe Schmidt's Selection Has Given Ireland Something We've Never Seen Before
By Conor O'Leary
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Ask and you will receive.

It may be two games too late, but we finally get the chance to see the combination we always wanted to see. Stuart McCloskey and Robbie Henshaw have the potential to be the Ireland centre partnership for the next decade.

It may have taken an injury to Jared Payne to see it happen, but we are finally going to get to see Stuart McCloskey on an international stage, alongside Robbie Henshaw in his more natural position of outside centre.

It gives Irish fans a glimpse of something we've never been able to see before - two 6'4'' brutes with both skill and pace in the midfield. Traditionally Ireland have used either skill and no size in D'Arcy and O'Driscoll; or the likes of Rob Henderson or Kevin Maggs were used as battering rams.

While they may have the size and power to be battering rams, both McCloskey and Henshaw are so much more than that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zebIZCE-dZo

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On attack, McCloskey's lines of running for Ulster show a player whose grace defies the physique he carries around, and his ability to offload means he's never sarcastically associated with "that's a great offload...for a big man". If Henshaw can provide him support then the combination between the pair could be outstanding.

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McCloskey has a deceptively good left boot on him too - he was tasked with the place-kicks for Ulster during the World Cup with both Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson unavailable, and Ian Humphries out injured. Schmidt will like that McCloskey's left foot should compliment Sexton and Henshaw's right footedness, and it tends to give teams another weapon in their kicking game.

Conversely, with Henshaw now afforded more space in the outside channels, he could run riot against teh defensively susceptible Jonathan Joseph. We've seen his ability to offload, both for that wondrous pass for Bundee Aki's winning try against Munster, and to Keith Earls against Italy in the World Cup.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMj7y4jF77c

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There's no need to worry about the duo in defense either. At 109 kg and 103 kg respectively, both are going to be able to cope against a big English team, and will dwarf over the opposing Joseph and Farrell.

Farrell isn't a huge threat to break the line through the two centres either, and Henshaw has demonstrated that he can defend in the line and organise a defense from the outside centre position for Connacht for the last two seasons.

This is the centre partnership that Ireland should have started the tournament with, and Irish fans will finally get a chance to see how good Henshaw can be in his natural position. Garry Ringrose's time might not come just yet.

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See Also: The Difference Between An Inside And Outside Centre

Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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