Six of the most exciting inclusions in Emerging Ireland's squad for South Africa
There is no better time to be a young, talented rugby player in Ireland.
Ahead of next year's World Cup, Andy Farrell and David Nucifora are leaving no stone unturned. The IRFU performance director and senior men's head coach, fresh off a successful five-game tour to New Zealand, have lined up four more Emerging Ireland games in the coming months.
Simon Easterby will take the reins for a three-match tour to South Africa, starting in a fortnight's time, and then a young Ireland side will take on an All Blacks XV, midweek, during the November Test window.
The IRFU announced a 35-man Emerging Ireland squad this afternoon, and Farrell set out what is at stake for the young prospects and fringe players in Ireland's current set-up. He commented:
"This opportunity provides another window for players to develop and show they can thrive in the intensity of a national environment. It will be exciting to see which players step up and put themselves in the frame for a further opportunity to impress in November.
"For some players it is an opportunity to build on what they have already learned in national camp and take their development to the next level, for others it is a first opportunity to show the national coaches what they are about and what they can deliver."
Six of the most exciting Emerging Ireland squad inclusions
Former Ireland flanker Simon Easterby is taking on the Emerging Ireland head coach brief and said the squad heading to South Africa was selected with eyes firmly on 'broadening the selection pool for the national team'. He added:
"We will look to replicate the national team environment and training intensity, so players get a good understanding of what it takes to perform at the highest level. The players will have to adapt to the national team’s tactical and technical approach in a very short window of time and deal with the pressure of performing in a green jersey."
While many Irish supporters will be familiar with squad inclusions such as Robert Baloucoune, Shane Daly, Caolin Blade, Max Deegan, Nathan Doak and Cian Pendergast, there are several names that the more casual fans may not know much about.
Bristol Bears fullback Chay Mullins is well regarded at the Premiership side and has featured at both Sevens and U20s levels for Ireland. He scored a brace of excellent tries against Wales as that Ireland U20 side cruised to a Six Nations title.
Another player with Sevens experience is Clontarf and Leinster's Andrew Smith. The 22-year-old has a few senior Leinster outings and helped the Ireland Sevens men's team to a bronze medal at the recently wrapped World Cup.
Hampered by injuries after his own excellent performances with Ireland U20s, John Hodnett has had a good, clear pre-season and is ready to show what he can do. Alex Soroka of Leinster [pictured below] could be up against Hodnett for a starting spot, but already looks the part and will only improve over the next 12 to 18 months.
Dylan Tierney-Martin is a player we like a lot, from the games we have seen him feature in and from conversations with some well-placed heads in the provinces. The hooker has just over a handful of senior Connacht games but is a confident ball-carrier and can shift when he needs to.
Cheating a bit on No.6 as he has already shown what he is capable of in the URC and Champions Cup, but we are genuinely excited to see Ulster winger Ethan McIlroy get some fast, firm tracks to glide over, down in South Africa.
EMERGING IRELAND SQUAD
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen)*
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians)*
Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution)*
Nathan Doak (Ulster/Banbridge)
Jake Flannery (Ulster/Shannon)
Antoine Frisch (Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (Leinster/UCD)
Michael McDonald (Ulster)
Ethan McIlroy (Ulster/Queens RFC)
Stewart Moore (Ulster/Malone)
Chay Mullins (Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Calvin Nash (Munster/Young Munster)
Jamie Osbourne (Leinster/Naas)
Andrew Smith (Leinster/Clontarf)
Tom Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
Diarmuid Barron (Munster/Garryowen)
Tom Clarkson (Leinster/Dublin University)
James Culhane (Leinster/UCD)
Max Deegan (Leinster/Lansdowne)*
Brian Deeny (Leinster/Clontarf)
John Hodnett (Munster/UCC)
Sam Illo (Connacht)
Cormac Izuchukwu (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Alex Kendellen (Munster/UCC)
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin University)
Michael Milne (Leinster/UCD)
Scott Penny (Leinster/UCD)
Cian Prendergast (Connacht)
Callum Reid (Ulster/Banbridge)
Roman Salonoa (Munster/Shannon)
Alex Soroka (Leinster/Clontarf)
Tom Stewart (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Dylan Tierney-Martin (Connacht/Corinthians)
Josh Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster)
*Capped For Ireland
Ireland kick off their 'Toyota Challenge' fixtures against Griquas on Friday, September 30. They play Pumas the following Wednesday, October 5, and finish out their tour by facing Cheetahs on Sunday, October 9. All three games will be held at Toyota Stadium, in Bloemfontein.
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