After handing Joey Carbery what amounts to the biggest game of his fledgling career by making the Munster-bound out-half one of six changes to the starting XV from the Grand Slam finale against England, Joe Schmidt has described this Saturday's first test against Australia in Brisbane as "a super opportunity" for the 22-year-old.
Schmidt has recognised the heavy load on several Leinster front-liners who completed the province's historic European/Pro14 double by leaving Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong and Johnny Sexton on the bench, while Garry Ringrose and Dan Leavy have been held back altogether for upcoming skirmishes in Melbourne and Sydney.
So it is that Rob Herring starts in place of injured Ulster teammate Rory Best, with Sean Cronin, who has won 52 of his 61 caps as a replacement, confined to bench duty yet again.
Carbery's selection follows his decision last week to relocate from Leinster to Munster, and if the young player was willing to change provinces in a bid to earn more game time at outhalf, then there is an obligation on Schmidt to made a greater investment in him too.
Explaining the decision to start Carbery, Schmidt said: “It was similar to the decision-making in some of the other positions, like Tadhg Furlong. Some of those guys have had some reasonably tough weeks, it was an opportunity really. One of the things with Joey, we really wanted to get him out there at number 10 at some stage and we thought that the best window was to give him the longest preparation window possible.
“As I said, before I left Dublin, it was a surprise to myself that Joey decided to go to Munster. We didn’t realise that he was going to get that opportunity, we’d already talked about giving him this opportunity. So, we decided to forge ahead with it.”
Carbery has been restricted to a few cameos and just two starts at outhalf this season, one each for Ireland and Leinster, and Schmidt maintained there is “probably not as much (of a contrast) as people think.
"I think Johnny has developed into a really good running threat when you look at some of the opportunities he took in the Six Nations, just as Joey would be seen as a running threat. "I think, defensively, Joey has played a lot at fullback and he'd be very used to that high-speed tackle that's often very difficult to make - especially when someone has got two options to go left or right side. You've got to stay really balanced and try to limit them to one option.
"So, manipulating an attacking player and trying to get that tackle in - Joey is very good at it. Johnny is very good at it, because invariably for us he ended up defending on the edge quite often which happens with a lot of teams. Bernard Foley does it really well for the Wallabies. I guess it's the maturity, really.
“Johnny runs a really solid game. People are deferential to Johnny because he has been in the seat for a long time. But if he has been in the seat for a long time and no one else gets to sit in it, then we just leave ourselves a little bit exposed if he’s not in the seat. It’s a super opportunity for young Joey to try and make sure he learns a bit each opportunity he does get.”
Helpfully for Carbery, as was the intent, he is surrounded by plenty of experience, with Conor Murray at scrumhalf, a midfield partnership of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw, and the established back three of Keith Earls, Rob Kearney and Jacob Stockdale.
Earls said of Carbery: “He has two experienced lads with Robbie and Bundee (in the centre) and, I suppose, myself and Kearns at the back, Jacob has been Jacob this year. He’s been a freak even though he hasn’t much experience. We kind of stay tight as a unit, help Joey out as much as he can but I don’t think he’ll need too much help. He’s a great player and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
In all of this, there must no doubt have been a temptation to kick-off the series with all of his more established front-liners. Schmidt explains:
“It was trying to get a balance, we decided that it was an opportunity that would probably be more difficult to engineer during the tour because the longest window of preparation . . . we trained last Thursday in Dublin, then we really trained fully on Tuesday and Thursday of this week.
"Within those three trainings, it gave Joey an opportunity to slot himself in there as it did for John Ryan and Rob Herring in a similar vein. It's probably a good opportunity for some of those people to put their hand up."
As for the Australian selection, head coach Michael Cheika ventured: "They've got a huge amount of caps, mixed in with a few newbies. It is no surprise to see someone like Caleb Timu there, watching him come on for his cameo against the Waratahs at the weekend - he was absolutely block-busting. As he has been most of the Super Rugby season."
"Paenga-Amosa, again, probably with the injury to Jordan Uilese, it was something that was forced upon Cheiks, but at the same time it is a really good opportunity.
"I guess in the backs, Reece Hodge has been really solid for them and having him on the bench probably gives them huge versatility to probably go with the 6/2 split. (Tevita) Kuridrani not making it with (Samu) Kerevi being selected, I guess that's their strength in depth. Not too many teams in World Rugby would be able to leave out the likes of Kuridrani and Reece Hodge and still have an incredibly strong looking backline.
"It's the same up-front, young (Izack) Rodda has really impressed, I remember talking to Brad Thorn when I came over in January to have a look at where we might stay and how we might manage this leg of the tour, he mentioned them to me then before the Super Rugby season started. I've kept an eye on him since then, he impressed as a young man who is potentially going to be in the Wallabies for a long time."
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, John Ryan; Iain Henderson, James Ryan; Peter O'Mahony (capt), Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Johnny Sexton, Jordan Larmour.
Australia: Israel Folau; Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale,Dane Haylett-Petty; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Sekope Kepu; Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman; David Pocock, Michael Hooper (Capt), Caleb Timu.
Replacements: Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Pete Samu, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge.