RUGBY WORLD CUP REACTION: Joe Schmidt backs Luke Fitzgerald for Ireland role

Ireland's Luke Fitzgerald
Ireland's Luke Fitzgerald

Joe Schmidt has backed Luke Fitzgerald to challenge Robbie Henshaw for Ireland’s inside centre starting berth.

Head coach Schmidt hailed Leinster’s utility back Fitzgerald for slotting seamlessly into Ireland’s 12 shirt for the 50-7 rout of Canada.

Ireland eased past Canada in Cardiff to take early control of Pool D on Saturday, with Schmidt afterwards tipping Fitzgerald to compete for a regular midfield role.

Henshaw missed Ireland’s World Cup opener with hamstring trouble but could recover in time for next Sunday’s Romania clash, though Darren Cave may slot in at 12 as Schmidt rotates his squad.

“Darren Cave plays 12 or 13 and that’s a real advantage for us,” said Schmidt.

“But we always intended giving Luke a chance at 12, because he’s played 13 and 11 in the build-up, and we wanted to build our versatility.

“Darren’s pretty likely to have an involvement next week, and that will allow us to mix and match a little bit as we have done through the build-up period.

“But at the same time we know we’ve got to get results and we’ve got to go after them right from the start.

“We need to have people that we can put out there who can do the job, and we have confidence in our full squad of 31.

“With Luke, Keith Earls, with Darren Cave and Robbie, and Jared Payne and then also Ian Madigan at 12, there is a bit of scope for flexibility and an ability to maybe change up the way we’re playing the game depending on who we’re using.”