Adam Byrne set for Ireland debut against Argentina
Leinster team-mate James Ryan also in line to start a full Test for the first time
Ireland captain Rory Best with Adam Byrne who is expected to be named in the side to face Argentina. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Leinster winger Adam Byrne is set for a surprise international debut in Ireland’s Guinness Series finale against Argentina this Saturday when Joe Schmidt announces his starting XV and replacements for that game at lunchtime today.
The team is also expected to feature his 21-year-old Leinster team-mate, James Ryan, with the lock thus in line for his full Test debut after appearances off the bench against the USA Eagles and Japan last summer, as well as the win over South Africa a fortnight ago.
Although Schmidt has said that it didn’t necessarily follow that all of the 38-man squad selected for these November games would appear, it would appear that they will effectively be the case; the exceptions being those who have been ruled out by injury, namely Keith Earls, Dan Leavy and Tommy O’Donnell. Jordi Murphy, a late call-up, also played last week.
Following on from first caps for Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell and Darren Sweetnam in this autumnal window, Byrne would thus become the 49th new cap and 94th player used by Schmidt in his five years at the helm.
Schmidt previously made the 23-year-old Byrne Leinster’s youngest ever debutant against Connacht at the RDS in December 2012, even though, remarkably, he’d only played his first game for Naas CBS about four years previously.
An horrendous run of injuries led to a three-year delay before his second game for the province and even heading into last season Byrne had only played four games for the province, before last season’s breakthrough campaign featured 20 games and ten tries.
A product of Naas CBS and the Leinster Youths’ system, as well as UCD, he came through two years in the Leinster sub-academy and then the full academy for three years. He has his defensive issues, which were exposed by Montpellier’s Nemani Nadolo in Leinster’s European Champions Cup win last month, but is good in the air and going forward has real X-factor.
In all other respects, the team is expected to closely resemble the starting XV which kicked off the record 38-3 win over South Africa, with Andrew Conway and Devin Toner reverting to the bench as no player has been asked to start all three games.
Aki is expected to feature again alongside Robbie Henshaw in a renewal of their old Connacht midfield partnership, with Jacob Stockdale returning on the left-wing and Rob Kearney at fullback. The Lions’ Test half-back partnership of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton is also expected to be reinstated.
Similarly, Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong are expected to be reunited in the front row, with Iain Henderson partnering Ryan in the second row, and the Lions loose forward trio of Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and CJ Stander restored to the back row.
Devin Toner will be on the bench, as will Andrew Conway, despite backing up his performance against the Springboks with a Man of the Match display against Fiji last week. Ian Keatley is expected to be named on the bench as back-up to Sexton in light of Joey Carbery’s fractured wrist.
John Ryan is expected to return to the bench after being ruled out last week, with James Tracy and Luke McGrath also set to be named in the match-day squad having been limited to relatively brief cameos last week.
Ireland (possible) v Argentina: R Kearney; Byrne, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (capt), Furlong, James Ryan, Henderson, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Stander. Replacements: Kilcoyne, Tracy, John Ryan, Toner, Ruddock, L McGrath, Keatley, Conway.