Joe Schmidt has announced an Irish side featuring six Ulstermen to face USA on Saturday (KO 18:30).
Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale are left out having featured in two and three Autumn International matches already. Will Addison, Stuart McCloskey, John Cooney, Iain Henderson and Jordi Murphy are the Ulster contingent in the starting line up while Rob Herring is named among the replacements. Former Ulster player, Sam Arnold is set to make his Irish debut off the bench.
It’s the first time since the second test match against Japan that Ulster have six representatives in the match day panel. Luke Marshall, Paddy Jackson, Jacob Stockdale, Kieran Treadwell started the match, while Sean Reidy and John Cooney who had just moved to the province, started as a replacement in a 35-13 victory.
Connacht’s Finlay Bealham joins Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne and Niall Scannell in the front row while Henderson links up with Tadhg Beirne to form an exciting and dynamic second row pairing. Rhys Ruddock resumes the captaincy having led Ireland against Italy earlier in the series from blindside flanker. He is joined by Murphy and Jack Conan in the back row.
Johnny Sexton has been given the weekend off, so Joey Carbery takes the playmaking reigns at out half. He’s joined by Cooney who will make his first start for Ireland at scrum half. McCloskey has played well this season for Ulster and warrants his inclusion at inside centre. Garry Ringrose starts at 13 while Darren Sweetnam, Andrew Conway and Addison form the back three.
Ireland will be expecting to defeat the USA comfortably despite fielding a rotated side. However the visitors do have some familiar names. Their captain, Blaine Scully plays his rugby at Cardiff Blues and scored against Ulster in their victory back in March. In total he has made 46 appearances for Cardiff having joined from Leicester Tigers in 2015.
Paul Lasike is an abrasive centre and plays for Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership. Having just joined the Twickenham club this season he’s played 158 minutes in seven appearances, mostly coming off the bench late on. Weighing 113kg, he’s big but I’d certainly back McCloskey to handle him well.
Like Ireland, USA have had a fairly successful year to date. Their only loss came against the Maori All Blacks, the third match in Chicago’s Rugby Weekend at the start of the month. They also recorded more recent wins over Samoa (30-29) and Romania (31-5) with Will Hooley stepping up and kicking a last minute penalty to defeat the Samoans for the first time in their history.
They shocked Scotland in June, their first win over tier one opposition since they defeated France in the 1924 Olympic games. Despite Scotland racing into a 21-6 lead, an AJ MacGinty inspired side fought back to claim a 30-29 victory. Former Connacht player, MacGinty misses tomorrow’s match due to injury. Earlier in the year they claimed their second consecutive Americas Rugby Championship with five wins in Uruguay.
The FRU predicts: Despite USA’s good form this year, I still expect Ireland to run out winners however it will be a good test for Ireland’s fringe players who are in with a shout of heading to the World Cup next September. Ireland by eight points
|Will Addison||15||Will Hooley|
|Andrew Conway||14||Blaine Scully|
|Garry Ringrose||13||Bryce Campbell|
|Stuart McCloskey||12||Paul Lasike|
|Darren Sweetnam||11||Marcel Brache|
|Joey Carbery||10||Will Magie|
|John Cooney||9||Shaun Davies|
|Dave Kilcoyne||1||Titi Lamositele|
|Niall Scannell||2||Joe Taufete’e|
|Finlay Bealham||3||Paul Mullen|
|Tadhg Beirne||4||Greg Peterson|
|Iain Henderson||5||Nick Civetta|
|Rhys Ruddock||6||John Quill|
|Jordi Murphy||7||Hanco Germishuys|
|Jack Conan||8||Cam Dolan|
|Rob Herring||16||Dylan Fawsitt|
|Cian Healy||17||Chance Wenglewski|
|John Ryan||18||Dino Waldren|
|Quinn Roux||19||Samu Manoa|
|Josh vd Flier||20||David Tameilau|
|Luke McGrath||21||Ruben de Haas|
|Ross Byrne||22||Gannon Moore|
|Sam Arnold||23||Ryan Matyas|