Ireland will look for lineout improvement as Andrew Trimble earns 50th cap
Ireland v Canada: BMO Field, Toronto, 8pm (1am Irish, live TG4)
Ireland’s Andrew Trimble, who will win his 50th cap on Saturday in Toronto against Canada, poses in front of the City Hall in Toronto. Photograph: Inpho
Nobody in the Ireland camp wants John Moonlight to be a name that seeps into the national sporting consciousness. With that in mind Les Kiss shelved some pre-tour plans of sharing the load for tonight’s game in the magnificent city of Toronto.
We shouldn’t single out the Canadian openside just because his name dances off the page, but it must be noted Moonlight is one of nine home-based, amateur players in Kieran Crowley’s starting XV. Four of the six professionals played in the British and Irish Cup this season. Jebb Sinclair, a flanker playing lock here, is a proven performer for London Irish and Western Province but Taylor Paris hardly set the Pro 12 alight for Glasgow.
Paris, however, is one of several Sevens players who are genuine threats in open field and the place-kicking of Bedford fullback James Pritchard must be respected.
Ireland coughed up just six penalties in last Saturday’s 15-12 victory in sticky Houston conditions. The lineout malfunctioned but the scrum and Ian Madigan’s place kicking proved just enough. Devin Toner has recovered from illness – 11 players had stomach bugs after the three-hour flight last Sunday – to retain his towering role in a lineout that must be fixed (four of the first six throws were lost versus the US). Richardt Strauss’ all-round ability meant he too is allowed to atone.
But the Irish scrum should be able to squeeze the life out of Canada, as it did the US, even with Dave Kilcoyne making way for Tom Court.
The retention of Madigan is damaging for Paddy Jackson’s international aspirations but it is a form selection of a player who is three years further along in his development. Jackson is due off the bench but what does Kiss do in a one-score game as the 70 minute mark approaches? Madigan’s partnership with Isaac Boss is also seen by the coaching ticket as essential if Ireland are to prevail.
They made enough changes, most interestingly being the arrival of new flankers in Tommy O’Donnell and Kevin McLaughlin. This pair have more than proven themselves for Munster and Leinster this season but that standard must be transferred to the Test arena; that means O’Donnell’s physicality at the breakdown and McLaughlin showing Iain Henderson how a blindside should time his carries for maximum impact.
If that happens, and Toner sorts the set-piece, a few restart lifts last week were also mistimed, then James Downey can carry his big frame up the guts.
Andrew Trimble, winning his 50th cap, looks the most potent strike runner, well, judging from the levels of consistency he reached for Ulster after being dropped by Ireland. “I was really pleased with how things were going in Ulster,” said Trimble. “I think not being involved with Ireland helped me. I was able to concentrate on one thing and that made it very straightforward. I had to get the job done.
“I’m quite proud of myself because I know it’s difficult to come back whenever things aren’t going well. I pride myself on being able to dig in whenever things aren’t going the way you’d planned them.”
Canada may lack the marquee players of the USA but their collective should provide a sterner challenge. They held Tonga’s kamikaze attack, and tackling, even surviving a mass brawl, to win 36-27.
The presumption is Matt Evans and Sinclair have recovered from atrociously high tackles and a punch that left both concussed. Crowley is a wily coach, and a former All Black selector, even if it looks like Sevens rugby under Gareth Rees is slowly taking precedence as it is an Olympic “carded” sport in Canada.
All told, Ireland should win pulling up. Never mind it’s the last game of a long season (sure, only for Dan Carter’s late drop goal they would have caught the All Blacks on this weekend in 2012) or the stomach bugs, if they release the straps a little, and secure quick ball then 15 professionals beats six every time.
Even on this long hot summer’s night.
IRELAND: F Jones; F McFadden, D Cave, J Downey, A Trimble; I Madigan, I Boss; T Court, R Strauss, M Ross; D Tuohy, D Toner; K McLaughlin, T O’Donnell, P O’Mahony (capt). Replacements: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, D Fitzpatrick, M McCarthy, C Henry, P Marshall, P Jackson, R Henshaw.
CANADA: J Pritchard; M Evans, C Hearn, H Jones, T Paris; N Hirayama, P Mack; H Buydens, R Barkwill, J Marshall; J Sinclair, T Hotson; T Ardon, J Moonlight, A Carpenter. Replacements: R Hamilton, A Tiedemann, D Wooldridge, J Phelan, N Dala, S White, N Blevins, C Braid.
Referee: L Hodges (Wales).