Bright young things light up Thomond
Ireland 53 Fiji 0:Ireland’s youthful side showed few signs of nerves at Thomond Park, where a number among their ranks, Ulster’s Craig Gilroy and Luke Marhsall, in particular, sparkled against Fiji. So impressive were they, there may well be some senior statesmen shifting nervously in their seats after eight tries this evening.
Gilroy opened the scoring with the first of his three, while Fergus McFadden, Seán Cronin and Darren Cave also crossed in the first half.
McFadden added his second after the restart, again with the help of the TMO, and Gilroy ran in another well-worked move, before brilliantly running in turnover ball from deep inside Ireland’s 22. Luke Marshall completed another sweeping move to finish the performance off with a flourish, the highlight coming when flanker Iain Henderson’s subtle sidestep bought enough time to feed his Ulster team-mate in on the touchline.
Their provincial outhalf Paddy Jackson showed plenty of promise in the playmaking role, though he will be disappointed not to have added more points with the boot, having missed three kickable conversions.
With the Pumas due in Dublin next week for a full international, Declan Kidney might find it difficult to ignore the contributions of centres Cave and Luke Marshall, whose namesake Paul impressed at scumhalf in the 20 minutes he was afforded after replacing Conor Murray.
The evening began with concern over senior outhalf Jonathan Sexton, who relinquished his place on the bench after straining his groin in the warm-up, though afterwards Kidney insisted it was merely a precaution.
Connacht backrow John Muldoon will go for a scan tomorrow after being stretchered off with a leg injury in the second half.
Kidney admitted that wingers Gilroy and McFadden have left him with a selection headache ahead of the clash against Argentina.
“There were a lot of young men out there having their first go and I think it would be wrong to single any one player out.
“There was a fair bit of finishing from some of the backs but there was good work done by the forwards too.
“Craig (Gilroy) seemed to enjoy it. I’m sure Fergus (McFadden) will remind him that he was in the scrum that led to one of his tries.
“It was a good team effort and the wingers, well it’s their job to finish the chances when they come to them. Fair play to him, he took his chances when they came his way.”
Gilroy announced himself on the European stage at the same ground last April, scoring a scintillating try against Munster in the Heineken Cup quarter-final.
The 21-year-old was delighted with his evening’s work and said: “The Ulster lads did well but I thought the team, as a whole, were great.
“We’ve only been together a short while but we’ve gelled really quickly and I think that showed tonight.
“Any chance I get to put on the jersey and play for my country is a big step for me. It is something that I have worked towards really hard and I’m glad I took my opportunity tonight.”
Kidney believes the five tries from his wingers means Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble will have to step up their game in preparation for Ireland’s final Test match of the year.
He said: “They’ve certainly put their hand up and I guess that will have to be recognised. We’ll take a look at the videos and, whether it affects selection or not, we’ll have to wait and see. We won’t pre-empt anything.”
Samoa’s victory over Wales on Friday night has tightened up the world rankings and Ireland could rise as high as sixth with a win at the Aviva Stadium.
Kidney added: “Samoa’s win makes it clearer that we have to get a win next week to stay in that top-eight position. It will be all to play for.
“We had good support here tonight and hopefully we’ll get it again next week because we are going to need it against a tough Argentinian side.”