Robert Baloucoune with Andy Farrell Dan Sheridan/INPHO
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'I love the way that he's unorthodox in his play' - Farrell backs Baloucoune

The Ireland boss has outlined the reasoning behind his selection for the Argentina game.

THERE WERE HOPES among some supporters that Andy Farrell would shake things up against Argentina on Sunday but the Ireland boss has gone for four changes to his starting XV, with three of them partly injury-enforced.

The starting halfbacks from last weekend’s win over the All Blacks, Jamison Gibson Park and captain Johnny Sexton, were ruled out earlier this week, meaning Conor Murray and Joey Carbery come in at scrum-half and out-half, respectively.

Farrell indicated that Bundee Aki has a few injury niggles – “nothing too serious” -  although the fit-again Robbie Henshaw may well have started in the number 12 shirt anyway.

The fourth and final change to Ireland’s starting team sees Ulster flyer Robert Baloucoune come in on the right wing for Andrew Conway, who rotates out after strong performances against Japan and New Zealand.

Farrell is excited about Baloucoune’s second cap, having watched him score an excellent try on debut against the US in July.

“He’s a quiet type of chap and gets about his business in that type of way,” said Farrell this afternoon.

“But the potential is there for all to see. I love the way that he’s unorthodox in his play. He’s obviously very quick and hopefully we can get him into a bit of space.

“He has a natural feel for the game and very underestimated as far as decision-making and reads in defence. He’s very good under the high ball. So hopefully we can get some front-foot ball and give him some room.”

Farrell has no concerns about Henshaw coming straight back into Test rugby after a foot injury despite having last played in August on the Lions’ tour of South Africa.

robbie-henshaw Henshaw hasn't played since August. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“In my experience, world-class players can come back in without much game time and just be themselves,” said Farrell.

“Robbie, in my opinion, is exactly that. He’s been in and around camp over the last two weeks, back fully training for around 10 days or so. He looked great in training today and I’m sure he’s going to add to the performance.”

Farrell stressed the importance of “balance” in this Ireland selection while signaling that the unchanged forward pack could help to lay a strong platform for Carbery and the rest of the backline.

Players like Stuart McCloskey, Dave Kilcoyne, Ryan Baird, Ciarán Frawley, Nick Timoney, Ultan Dillane, Simon Zebo, and Jordan Larmour will leave Ireland camp having had no involvement at all in the three Tests this autumn.

Farrell said he has spoken with all of them:

“They know exactly where they’re at. I have had individual conversations with all of them.

“It’s difficult for them, there’s no doubt about that. Selection should be difficult and the conversations I have had with all of them… selection is in their own hands, don’t let it be a 50/50. Go back now to your provinces and let’s see what you are made of, see where camp, the training, everything they have picked up.

“Not just from how we play, but how they pick up stuff off each other. It will be there for all to see, won’t it, in the next couple of months. So, we are interested in how people transfer from camp to club form ASAP and keep that going to want to get back into the room for the Six Nations.”

harry-byrne Harry Byrne is set for his second cap off the bench. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Farrell’s bench for Sunday afternoon includes two 23-year-old front rows in Dan Sheehan and Tom O’Toole, as well as 22-year-old halfbacks Craig Casey and Harry Byrne.

In Farrell’s eyes, they have earned their chances.

“Harry has been stop-start this season, he’s hardly had any minutes coming into camp. He’s missed a bit of training as well for Leinster with a few different injuries. But since he’s been in camp with us, he’s not missed a training session and we’ve seen him grow.

“We’ve seen him mature in front of our eyes as well and it’s going to be great to see him test himself with a good side we’ve put out and against a good side in Argentina.

“Craig has been chomping at the bit for every single training session and I’m sure the two lads will do themselves proud.”

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