Tbilisi Cup offers fringe Ireland players chance to impress Joe Schmidt

Ireland coach Nigel Carolan announces 28-man squad for IRB Under-20 World Championship in Italy next month

As the

World Cup looms ever closer representative playing outlets become a cherished commodity for those looking to impress Ireland coach Joe Schmidt before this season peters out.

One such opportunity could come in the form of the Tbilisi Cup. The IRFU is sending an Emerging Ireland team to a tournament where they will be joined by hosts Georgia, Uruguay and Emerging Italy.

Emerging Ireland took part in this competition in 2013 – they finished second to the Emerging Springboks – before turning their attentions to the IRB Nations Cup in Romania last year, a tournament they won under the coaching baton of Dan McFarland (Connacht) and Neil Doak (Ulster).


The tournament takes place from June 13th-21st and would offer an opportunity for players whose season has been curtailed by injury or those returning from an extended spell on the sidelines. Two Munster secondrows Donnacha Ryan and Dave Foley and Connacht tighthead Nathan White spring to mindGeorgia and Uruguay have both qualified for the World Cup later this year.

Age-grade players

It seems plausible for Schmidt to have a look at a number of players in the context of World Cup selection while drawing from some of the best age-grade players of the last three or four years, a group that would include Jack O'Donoghue (Munster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster) and Matt Healy (Connacht).

Leinster’s Girvan Dempsey would seem a logical choice for coach given he led the province to a couple of British & Irish Cup Cups in the last three seasons.

Ireland play the Barbarians on Thursday, May 28th at Thomond Park, two days before the Guinness Pro12 final at the Kingspan Stadium.

Meanwhile Nigel Carolan has announced a 28-man Ireland squad for the IRB Under-20 World Championship in Italy from June 2nd-22nd.

The Irish side started the Under-20 Six Nations with wins over Italy and France but three successive losses made for a disappointing tournament. In preparation for this announcement, Carolan and his coaching team invited a "best of the rest" selection to take on the Ireland squad.

Sean McNulty missed the Six Nations through injury but is expected to prove his fitness over the next couple of weeks while Old Belvedere scrumhalf Charlie Rock is the only uncapped player in the squad.

Eight players return, Ross Byrne, Billy Dardis, Ciarán Gaffney, Oisín Heffernan, Nick McCarthy, Rory Moloney, Josh Murphy and Garry Ringrose from the panel which finished fourth in last year's global tournament. There are four Under-19 players in the squad; Sam Arnold, Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Porter and Conan O'Donnell.

Ireland will play a warm-up game away to France on Friday, May 22nd.

UNDER-20 WORLD CUP AND TBILISI CUP IRELAND U-20 (squad Junior World Championship, June 2nd-20th): S Arnold (Ballynahinch), R Byrne (UCD), J Carbery (UCD), F Cleary (Lansdowne), B Dardis (UCD), L Dow (QUB), J Dwan (UCD), S Fitzgerald (Shannon), C Gaffney (Galwegians), O Heffernan (Terenure), J Loughman (UCD), Z McCall (QUB), N McCarthy (UCD), S McNulty (UCD), S McVeigh (Buccaneers), R Moloney (Buccaneers), J Murphy (UCD), C O'Donnell (Sligo/NUIG), D O'Connor, C Oliver (both StMary's), J Owens (QUB), A Porter (UCD), G Ringrose (UCD), C Rock (Old Belvedere), C Romaine (Buccaneers), J Stockdale (QUB), A Thompson (QUB), N Timoney (St Mary's).

IRELAND – Fixtures (kickoff times Irish): Tues, June 2nd: Ireland U-20s v Argentina U-20s, Parma (3.30); Sat, June 6th: Ireland U-20s v Scotland U-20s, Calvisano, (3.30); Wed, June 10th: New Zealand U-20s v Ireland U-20s, Viadana, (7.30).

Tbilisi Cup Sat, June 13th: Emerging Ireland v Emerging Italy; Wed, Tues, June 17th: Emerging Ireland v Uruguay; Sun, June 21st, Emerging Ireland v Georgia.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer