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Attacking mindset of Murrayfield to spill over when Ireland take on Barbarians

Les Kiss is hoping to see one young Leinster prospect take on Joe Rokocoko.

AFTER CAPPING OFF the Six Nations campaign with an accomplished display of fluid, attacking rugby against Scotland, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland have the perfect opportunity to continue that trend this week.

Craig Gilroy Ulster's top try-scorer Craig Gilroy is back on the international scene. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Thursday takes the Barbarians to Thomond Park for an uncapped fixture with a selection of Irish players drawn from Ulster and Leinster.

The BaaBaas, of course, have been able to cast the net a bit wider and a quick look at the names in their squad – such as Gio Aplon, Joe Rokocoko and David Smith - suggests that Robbie Deans’ side will adhere to the traditional Barbarians spirit more than some touring squads in recent seasons.

Les Kiss Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Ireland will aim to play their part in making the fixture a spectacle too, though not without their usual attention to detail.

“I certainly know the Barbarians will approach it that way,” assistant coach Les Kiss said when asked about the style of game fans can expect in Limerick.

“From my perspective in defence, I’ve already got the sweats thinking about it. Both teams will be trying to put on an entertaining affair.

“We’re always trying to make sure, whatever we do in our training and matches, to be very strong at the basics. We won’t be far removed from that.

In the spirit of what the game is and to bring forth the type of game we’d like to play, sure, but we’d also like to do our basics well and launch something exciting off that.”

For many of the players involved, this will be far from just a post-season midweek warm-down, it’s a chance to stage a late rally for a World Cup place.

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Players like Chris Henry, Rhys Ruddock, Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy are certainly in that category. The latter two in particular will also have to contend with the new faces coming in to add competition within the group.  Kiss suggested that a place in the matchday squad may be reserved for some of the young bright sparks.

“He’s shown that he’s an extremely gifted player,” Kiss said of Leinster’s Cian Kelleher, “he can play 15, he can play on the wing, he can cover centre if he wanted to. But he’s a player that’s exciting – it’d be great to see him up against Rokocoko or someone. Hopefully get on the outside and towel him up, to have that experience.

Rugby Union - 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour - Barbarians v British and Irish Lions - Hong Kong Stadium Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

“Because in the spirit of the Barbarians it would be great to have a couple of those young guys on the park at some stage to show their worth.”

The big goal Schmidt’s coaching staff have in this fixture is to keep a handle on the progress of players, to ensure they are comfortable and accustomed with the process of preparing for fixtures at international level. While Colm O’Shea, Jack Conan or even full internationals like Luke Marshall appear to be a long way from the World Cup squad, experiences like Thursday can prove invaluable in the long run. Opportunities to wear the green jersey while attacking and hitting world class operators don’t come along every day.

“From our perspective, it’s about now, but also about the future,” Kiss adds.

“You’re always trying to expose players at different levels and different ways to see how they handle it. Being part of the environment and understanding what it is to prepare, though it is a short window, against the likes of the players we mentioned earlier, what an opportunity for them.”

And what an opportunity for Ireland to keep the momentum of the Six Nations rolling on through the summer.

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Sean Farrell

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