John O'Sullivan: Ireland’s young stars being starved of priceless minutes

The long-term absence of AIL means chances are at a premium for provincial prospects

Ulster’s Ethan McIlroy has been one of the younger players to grasp his opportunity this season. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ulster’s Ethan McIlroy has been one of the younger players to grasp his opportunity this season. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

A direct correlation to the development of young players can be traced to matches. Gym, training sessions and skills work are important too, but there is no substitute for the proving ground of the competitive environment. It’s a forum for the practical application of a learning process.

There are other supplementary considerations that centre on the quality and regularity of the games. This season the Irish provinces have been primarily engaged in three tournaments: abbreviated versions of the Pro14, Champions Cup (Ulster and Connacht also played in the Challenge Cup) and Rainbow Cup during which they will have used in excess of 50 players apiece.

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