After the disappointment of last weekend, Jaime Heaslip and his Irish charges will get another chance to get their first win of the autumn series when an Irish A side take on Fiji in Thomond Park, Limerick on Saturday.
Declan Kidney has used the game to give his extended squad a run out naming a team with an average age of just 23 and retaining just three players from the team that lost to South Africa.
While IRB rankings may not be at stake this weekend as this is an uncapped International, there is still a lot to play for with Ireland’s unbeaten record against Fiji , Heaslip’s search for a maiden win as captain and a test place against Argentina all up for grabs.
Ireland has won all three previous meetings with the Fijians, who loss by a record score line to England in their opening fixture of the series and Irish coach Declan Kidney was full of confidence that his inexperienced side could continue that record on Saturday,
“We know it will be a difficult test and this is a vote of confidence for the players we’ve picked,” the former Munster coach said.
Heaslip, who retains the captaincy, along with Conor Murray and Mike Ross are the only survivors from the narrow four point loss to South Africa with three uncapped players, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall all coming in.
Denis Hurley and Darren Cave complete the back line while Ross and Heaslip will be joined in the forward line by young Ulster star Iain Henderson, John Muldoon, Dan Tuohy, Donnacha O’Callaghan, Sean Cronin and David Kilcoyne.
Heaslip in particular will be looking to make an impact following his costly yellow card against the Springboks while emerging talents Henderson, Cave, Gilroy, McFadden, Kilcoyne and Jackson will be keen to show that they are worthy of inclusion in the final test against Argentina next weekend.
Jackson in particular will be looking to take over Ronan O’Gara’s mantle as the backup number 10. The Ulster youngster has added accuracy to his game this season, averaging 10 points a game in the Rabodirect and Heineken cup this season. The 20 year old was captain of the Irish U20 six nation’s side last season and he elevation to the A squad is a measure of the progress he has made in the last 12 months.
Fiji meanwhile head into the game on the back of a midweek loss to Gloucester, letting slip an 26-17 lead to lose 31-29. Coach Inoke Male has made ten changes from that team with London Irish Prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa and France based Centre Saula Radidi coming into the side.
Yanuyanutawa teams up with Viliame Veikoso and Deacon Manu in the front row, while Leone Nakarawa and Api Naikatini come in at Locks.
Iliesa Ratuva and Malakai Ravulo are on the flanks with Nemani Nagusa retaining his position at No. 8.
Nicola Matawalu replaces Kelemedi Bola, and Jonetani Ralulu comes in at first five eight.
Vereniki Goneva replaces Samu Wara in midfield while Watisoni Votu keeps his place on the left wing with Simeli Koniferedi coming in for Timoci Matanavou.
Ones to watch:
Ireland: Craig Gilroy
With so much young talent on display it is difficult to pick one player to watch however Gilroy is one that has the ability to excite fans. The 21 year old scored a brace on his Ulster debut against Cardiff this time two years ago and has not looked back since. His profile rose even further last year when he scored a fantastic try against Munster in the quarter final of the Heineken Cup and more on the same on Saturday would put real pressure on his Ulster team mates Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe. Gilroy has scored two tries from 4 starts so far this season. You can back Craig to score the first try at 5/1 with Boylesports
Fiji: Jerry Yanuyanutawa
The 27 year old prop currently plays his rugby with London Irish. A former Brumbies star Yanuyanutawa converted to prop from the back row on the advice of former England international Trevor Woodman and won his first cap during the summer.
Despite Kidney naming an inexperienced side Ireland should still have too much in the tank for Fiji especially with a Limerick crowd behind them. The chosen XV have plenty to aim for with test places still up for grabs and a comfortable performance will give Kidney plenty of food for thought ahead of the Argentine clash.
Ireland to win > 10 points, so back Fiji+23 @ 10/11 with Boylesports
Ireland: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (capt), 7 John Muldoon, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 Simon Zebo.
Fiji: 1. Jerry Y Anuyanutawa, 2. Viliame Veikoso, 3. Deacon Manu 4. Leone Nakarawa, 5. Api Naikatini, 6. Iliesa Ratuva, 7. Malakai Ravulo, 8. Nemani Nagusa, 9. Nicola Matawalu, 10. Jonetani Ralulu, 11. Watisoni Votu, 12. Josh Matavesi, 13. Vereniki Govena, 14. Simeli Koniferedi, 15. Metuisela Talebula