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Summer Internationals – Schmidt Looks To Future Stars

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We’ve wanted it for a long time now, we’ve got it in dribs and drabs over the years on tours to the United States and such, but finally tomorrow evening our time, a fairly experimental Irish rugby team will come up against a closer to top tier nation in the first of a two game summer series.  Exciting times indeed, let’s have a look at what Joe Schmidt has put together for us

One position in particular was always going to have more eyes on it than any other, that being the gaping void left at 13 with the retirement of you know who. Robbie Henshaw is certainly the most exciting prospect given his age and dynamic presence but injury has unfortunately found him sat up catching up on box sets for the summer and so the responsibility has fallen to Ulster’s Darren Cave who is certainly by no means lacking in skills in this position. Fair enough, Henshaw is not the only option Schmidt has maybe surprisingly overlooked, with Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls not present through injury or non-selection, but it is certainly Darren Cave, next to Henshaw, who is likely to prove the closest “replacement” for the mighty Brian O’Driscoll.

Elsewhere there are few safe choices, with Felix Jones at fullback, Robbie Diack getting his first Irish cap in the back row, Iain Henderson favoured over the towering Devin Toner and Jordi Murphy handed a start at Number 8 over Jamie Heaslip. Looking at motivators for selection, it does appear as though we are seeing a mix of more liberal thinking and of course the Leinster contingent involved in the Pro 12 final last weekend are being rested for the most part. Unlike many of these experimental selections in the past however, 1 to 15 stands a good chance of putting a genuine claim in for their respective jerseys with many of their superiors well advanced in their careers and in need of understudies.

For Argentina, well they are just an increasingly more difficult team to predict the last few years. The Pumas of 7 years ago who so very nearly caused all manner of upsets in the World Cup are long gone, and in their place has come less of a bish bash bruiser generation as we had become accustomed to, and of course their inclusion in the Rugby Championship has surely done them favours. Coach Daniel Hourcade appears to have said competition in the corner of his eye however with his selection for the series featuring none of the higher profile Argentina players, notably those who are playing elite rugby overseas. Only the half back pairing of Martin Landajo and Nicolas Sanchez, as well as lock Manuel Carizza and prop Matias Diaz could in any way be considered experienced, the majority of the rest of the team having cut their teehth with the Pampas earlier this year, Argentina’s equivalent of the Irish Wolfhounds side. Whilst this is much the same approach Ireland have taken, the difference is the standard of domestic rugby the Irish players are subjected to, with even the “lesser” Pro 12 far above and beyond most of the experience level the bulk of this Pumas side has seen.

Maybe a win is a complete given for Ireland in this opener, and series, but the tactics and player options on display is crucial. Of course there’s that. But there is a chance that Argentina could benefit very little from it too, if the rout potential is realised. We can only wait and see.

Ireland win

This isn’t the only rugby this weekend of course, be sure to keep and eye on these other fixtures to help right the post-Bank Holiday blues.

New Zealand V England Whether to cheer the Northern Hemisphere underdog, cheer against the auld enemy or simply to watch the world’s best rugby team do their thing, this has infinite potential to provide the best breakfast viewing you’ve ever seen.

Australia V France Ewan McKenzie V Phillippe Saint-Andre more like. A radical, smart thinking coach head to head with a radical (even coach is a bit of a stretch in relation to the bould Phillippe). Joking aside however, France couldn’t be coming off better form with their last outing in the Six Nations on that famous day being one of their finest outings in years.

South Africa V World XV Carl Hayman, Steffon Armitage, Matt Giteau, Rene Ranger (!), Drew Mitchell. Whatever you’re thoughts on these one off exhibition games, that World XV has some serious talent in what is a dream team for many. Possibly very, very interesting.

USA V Scotland No, Vern Cotter is not going to wave a magic wand and turn Scotland into a fully functioning team overnight, but it will be interesting to see the beginning of his influence on them. Also the USA side of course have a huge clash with the All Blacks coming this November and everything from now onwards is crucial prep for them too.

Image courtesy of independent.ie

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