Our exciting, new-look Ireland team to take on Italy in Chicago
Fresh bodies, tantalising combinations, one Test debut.
On November 2nd 2019, the Rugby World Cup final takes place in Japan. On Saturday, in Chicago, Ireland embark on a 12-month journey they hope will bring them to that final, and one step further.
Conor Murray is missing out on the Chicago trip, and the Guinness Series in Dublin, but he is extremely positive about what this Ireland squad can achieve in the coming years. Murray has been part of Ireland teams that have beaten the Springboks in South Africa, won a Test Series in Australia, clinched a Grand Slam and defeated the All Blacks.
Looking ahead to the next four Test matches, Murray said, "It will be interesting definitely.
"And the whole team. Who’s going to play? You don’t know who’s playing well. You don’t know what the coaches are thinking. There’s obviously the Italy game first then two big ones, as people are talking about it. We’ll treat every game seriously as we always do. But you could potentially see a few changes in and around that which will be exciting because of the year that is."
Italy are, of course, no pushovers but Ireland's two big challenges of November will come from Argentina and New Zealand. To that end, we are looking at an Ireland team that can get the job done at Soldier Field but keeps several of the main men fresh for action at the Aviva Stadium.
It was interesting to note the amount of Ireland internationals that put in long shifts over the weekend, in the Guinness PRO14. Across the four provinces, 10 players included in Joe Schmidt's 42-man squad played the full 80 minutes. They are:
- Jordi Murphy, Stuart McCloskey & Will Addison (ULSTER)
- Bundee Aki (CONNACHT)
- Keith Earls, Niall Scannell, Peter O'Mahony & CJ Stander (MUNSTER)
- Robbie Henshaw & Dan Leavy (LEINSTER)
James Ryan also played 77 minutes in Leinster's win over Treviso. Personally, I can't see many of those men starting against Italy next Saturday. Schmidt and his coaching staff will have starting XVs in mind for the Italy and Argentina games and, we suspect, a preferred 15 to face New Zealand.
Ireland are well stacked in each of the forward departments and in midfield but it would be nice to see some fresh faces staking a claim in the half-back and back three positions.
My Ireland team to take on Conor O'Shea's Italians keeps together some Leinster combinations but has a couple of fresh enough faces to make the game more than watchable. Sam Arnold would have been in the mix for this game but I suspect Stuart McCloskey and Will Addison are now in contention after the Munster centre copped a blow to the head. I'm opting for Addison to make his Ireland debut alongside Garry Ringrose.
The big call here is starting John Cooney with Joey Carbery. They are untried as a half-back pairing but are worth a dart against the Azzurri.
OUR IRELAND XV
Rhys Ruddock (c)
Josh van der Flier
Replacements: Niall Scanell, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Will Addison.
*Ireland's game with Italy will be live on eir Sport next Saturday, November 3.