Schmidt had always planned to make changes

The head coach made three changes to the match-day squad

BY Simon Maguire 14:41 Thursday 9 February 2017, 14:41 9 Feb 2017

Conor Murray and Head Coach Joe Schmidt. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Joe Schmidt has indicated that he had every intention of making a couple of changes ahead of the Italy game regardless of the result of the Scotland match.

The Ireland boss named his team earlier today bringing in Cian Healy and Donnacha Ryan for Jack McGrath and Iain Henderson respectively.

Speaking about the change in the front row he said: "It was probably something we'd planned to do anyway - just rotate those two. One plays fifty and one plays thirty and vice-versa really so they both get 80 minutes in the first two weekends.

"They bring similar things but slightly different things and I think they've both earned an opportunity to get a shot at starting," he added.

Ireland's line-out struggled at times in Murrayfield and commenting on Ryan's inclusion in the starting line-up he said: "Donnacha is pretty good line-out operator. He's a real technician in that area and a tactician."

Donnacha Ryan. Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Tommy Bowe, who came on in the second half last week has dropped out of the match-day squad altogether with Schmidt saying: "Tommy was unlucky coming on. He had to deal with an overlap that we really should have done better with. It should have been shut down further in and therefore over-reached in the tackle.

"That was frustrating for him really. He hit a great line a one stage and Josh just took his space, he just didn't quite get into the game. Tommy will hopefully get a bit of game time for Ulster this weekend and that will better prepare him for the challenges that lie ahead.

"With Craig Gilroy, he toured South Africa with us, he's been working incredibly hard and as a result of that we're keen to give him an opportunity," he added. 

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