5 Talking Points As Joe Schmidt Names His Ireland Team For Fiji Test
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Joe Schmidt has made 13 changes to his Ireland starting line-up for this weekend’s clash with Fiji at the Aviva, much to the delight of Irish Rugby fans.
In doing so Schmidt hands Chris Farrell his debut, with Darren Sweetnam, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter all making their first starts for their country.
Everyone had hoped Schmidt would use this fixture to experiment and build-depth, and thankfully he has followed through with a really exciting selection.
Here are five talking points.
Carbery at ten.
The talented young playmaker has been deployed at fullback for Leinster this season, just as he was for the latter end of last season. But Schmidt has said time and time again, he sees him as a ten for Ireland. The last time Carbery started here for Ireland was against USA over the summer, which was rather forgetful experience for the youngster. Hopefully he will be wiser this time round, and we can start to see him develop into the ten we know he’s capable of becoming. With Paddy Jackson’s career up the air, and Ian Madigan in England for the foreseeable future, a spot as Johnny Sexton’s understudy is up for grabs.
Conway at fullback.
Now that Zebo looks to have played his last game for Ireland, and Carbery is seen as a ten, there’s a spot open at fullback for Ireland. Schmidt doesn’t seem to fancy Tiernan O’Halloran, and while we know at this stage 9/10 he’ll go with Rob Kearney, there’s no guarantee he’ll be fit come the Six Nations, especially with his woeful record. Conway was one of the best players on the pitch against the Springboks last week. It will be interesting to see how he gets on at fullback. He’s proven time and time again he can do a job there with Munster. But can he do it at Test level?
Farrell & McCloskey team up.
An interesting centre partnership, with two absolute monsters in midfield. McCloskey has had to wait a long time for his 2nd cap. But has been massive for Ulster this season. Farrell meanwhile has looked impressive in attack, but there are serious holes in his defence. It will be interesting to see how both of them get on. Two good performances here and Ireland might just have some depth in the centres for the first time probably in their history. With Aki showing he can make the jump up with ease last week, and Ringrose and Payne still to recover, Ireland will be well stocked.
Conan gets his chance.
A huge game game ahead for Jack Conan as he finally gets a shot at a top 10 Test team. Stander played his best game of the season last week, and while he likely won’t overtake the Munster back-row, he will be battling it out with the likes of Rhys Ruddock and Jamie Heaslip when he returns for a spot on Ireland’s bench. It’ll be hugely interesting to see if he can deliver this weekend.
Ultan Dillane is back and he needs a big game.
The Connacht second-row has kind of faded away for Ireland since the November internationals last year, where he put in a number of impressive performances. James Ryan is now on the scene, as is Kieran Treadwell, with Tadhg Beirne still to come. Dillane won’t get too many more chances and needs to deliver on Saturday to stay in Schmidt’s plans. If not he can expect to drift down the pecking order.