Joe Schmidt believes pitching Robbie Henshaw into action against Romania could have risked the Connacht centre’s entire World Cup.
Ireland boss Schmidt is confident Henshaw will be ready to face Italy despite leaving the 21-year-old out of Sunday’s Pool D clash at Wembley.
Ireland’s first-choice centre partnership is RobbieHenshaw and JaredPayne.
Henshaw failed to recover from hamstring trouble in time to contest selection for Ireland’s second World Cup encounter, with head coach Schmidt making 12 changes from the side that thrashed Canada 50-7.
Darren Cave slots in at 12 with Cian Healy back in at loosehead prop, with Ireland naming the oldest starting line-up in World Cup history.
Video by Dan Linehan.
“It was just that at the start of the week we felt we had to take it a little bit easier than we first thought with Robbie,” said Schmidt.
“He is fully running now and we just felt we’d rather not push ahead.
“Soft tissue injuries can be quite complicated.
“If you get a re-injury on the same site then you are in a situation where his World Cup could be in doubt.
“So we’ve taken no risk.
“There are times to take risks but this is a great opportunity for Darren Cave.”
Schmidt has named four World Cup debutants in his side to face Romania, Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy and Cave making their tournament bows in London.
Henshaw will remain the only man of Ireland’s squad not to feature in the competition so far should Schmidt empty his full bench at Wembley.
Versatile playmaker Ian Madigan will start at fly-half, but Schmidt admitted the Leinster pivot could move to scrum-half during the course of the match.
Madigan is Ireland’s third and emergency scrum-half, covering for Conor Murray and Reddan, with Schmidt keen to hand him a first Test run at nine this weekend.
“We want Ian (Madigan) and Paddy (Jackson) both to have some time at 10,” said Schmidt.
“But if the game’s going in a direction where we feel Ian would benefit from 15 minutes at nine, then that’s possible.”
Shaun Cronin, head sports reporter of breakingnews.ie speaking to the Irish Examiner’s rugby correspondent Simon Lewis on Ireland’s RWC match against Romania this weekend. Video by Dan Linehan.