Ireland to get an infusion of youth for Fijian adventure
If the Springboks like to drag their opponents into structured arm wrestles, then the Fijians are the polar opposite. Meetings with the off the cuff Pacific Islanders tend to be entertaining affairs and in keeping with the change of opposition, Ireland are expected to unveil a younger, much-changed outfit for Saturday’s clash in Thomond Park.
David Kilcoyne (23) and Iain Henderson (20), both of whom made their debuts off the bench last week are expected to be named in the starting XV today in Limerick and, giving this non-Test match a further unique flavour, the uncapped Ulster trio of Luke Marshall (21), Paddy Jackson (20) and Craig Gilroy (21) are also in the running to start.
Outside all of them, the 25-year-old thrice-capped Ulster man Darren Cave will feel like as much of an elder statesman as he does in Ravenhill.
Strictly speaking, this is neither a full Test match nor an Irish Wolfhounds game, with the home side’s labelling of ‘Ireland XV’ presumably placing them somewhere in between. In any event the Thomond Park faithful (about 12,500 tickets have been sold to date) are likely to see the newly-qualified and newly-capped Michael Bent as well as a smattering of experienced players and others for whom opportunity knocks.
Declan Kidney and the other members of the Irish coaching staff have consistently indicated that they were always going to utilize their squad, initially comprising of 31 players and since supplemented by several additions in light of losing more front-liners, and having consistently praised the attitude in training, there is also an onus to reward them.
If anything, Argentina’s 26-12 win in Cardiff last Saturday has merely heightened that view that many of those who fronted up for last week’s bruiser will be rested for the Pumas, although it must be assumed that the Irish management will opt for the insurance policy of a strong bench against the Fijians, thereby also keeping some of them ticking over.
Much like the Lions ensuring their tour captain is part of the opening win, and all the more so to give him more experience of the job, it would be no surprise if the bulwark Jamie Heaslip leads the side again.
Alongside him and Henderson there would appear to be no alternative to either Chris Henry or Peter O’Mahony at openside, although there has been speculation that John Muldoon could be pressed into action there.
Given the workload of last week’s starting locks, Donncha O’Callaghan and Dan Tuohy look set to start in the second row.
Behind the pack, the comments regarding Eoin Reddan and the relatively late addition of Paul Marshall to the squad point to the former starting, although there is a doubt about him due to an ankle injury and that could prove too risky. Either way, you’d like to see Marshall rewarded for his form over the last year or more with some game time.
Fergus McFadden looks sure to be given an opportunity to press his claims for a return, while Denis Hurley remains the only other fullback in the squad and is expected to start ahead of Simon Zebo, who nevertheless is likely to continue his education in the role at some point.
Tickets for Saturday’s game remain on sale through Ticketmaster and at Thomond Park.
Possible replacements: Strauss, Healy, Ross, McLaughlin, O’Mahony, Murray or P Marshall, Sexton, Zebo.
15 Denis Hurley (Munster)
14 Fergus McFadden (Leinster)
13 Darren Cave (Ulster)
12 Luke Marshall (Ulster)
11 Craig Gilroy (Ulster)
10 Paddy Jackson (Ulster)
9 E Reddan/C Murray
1 David Kilcoyne (Munster)
2 Seán Cronin (Leinster)
3 Michael Bent (Leinster)
4 Donncha O’Callaghan (Mun)
5 Dan Tuohy (Ulster)
6 Iain Henderson (Ulster)
7 Chris Henry (Ulster)
8 Jamie Heaslip (Leinster, capt)