Dublin: 22°C Sunday 25 July 2021

Opportunities abound, fresh faces, and Ireland's returning big names

Joe Schmidt has named an exciting matchday 23 for the clash with Canada.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS named his matchday squad for Ireland’s November Test against Canada in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday [KO 7.15pm].

Check out the full squad here.

Munster men make debuts

Jack O’Donoghue and Billy Holland have been included in Schmidt’s starting pack, adding some Munster muscle to the mix along with the returning Peter O’Mahony, who captains the side.

Jack O'Donoghue O'Donoghue starts for Ireland. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

O’Donoghue has impressed Schmidt in recent seasons, both with his performances on the pitch for his province and with his thirst to learn when called into the international environment at Carton House.

Now the Waterford man – a proud product of Waterpark RFC – gets his chance to become a senior Test player. It would be a surprise if his dynamic and intelligent carrying game is not prominent against the Canadians.

31-year-old Billy Holland is now set to be rewarded for his outstanding service to Munster and Irish rugby for the best part of the last decade with a first Test cap.

His lineout skills, work rate and leadership are things a coach like Schmidt clearly values. In a team featuring so many changes, Holland’s level head and calm communication will be useful tools.

Expect him to slam ruck after ruck, and be close to the top of the tackle charts.

Ringrose gets his shot

Having impressed for Leinster over the last two seasons, Garry Ringrose now gets his international shot, starting in Ireland’s 13 shirt.

Garry Ringrose Ringrose is at 13 for Ireland. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The 21-year-old has been earmarked as a future star since forcing his way into the Ireland U20 set-up a year early in 2014, going on to be nominated for the World Rugby U20 Player of the Year award, before starring again at that level in 2015.

Ringrose is something of a classic outside centre, capable of beating his defender with a burst of acceleration and a swerve to their shoulder. His decision-making skills, both in defence and attack, are intelligently refined.

Having added a few additional kilogrammes of muscle mass to his 6’2″ frame over the summer, Ringrose now also has more weight into contact.

Schmidt has been measured in introducing Ringrose into Ireland’s environment, and now will hope that the patience pays off in style.

New caps off the bench

The five uncapped Ireland players on the bench make this fixture all the more exciting for supporters who have been crying out for Schmidt to introduce new blood into his squad.

Dan Leavy Dan Leavy is set for his debut. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Connacht’s prolific Niyi Adeolokun has worked hard on his defensive reads and contact skills in order to earn his shot. While the former Trinity wing is still improving his passing and kicking, he has earned this shot at Test rugby.

Luke McGrath seems to have been around for years and years at this stage, but at 23 he now finally looks set for his Ireland debut off the bench. Again, his passing remains a constant work-on, but his organisational abilities, communication and eye for a snipe are all exciting for Ireland.

With only nine Leinster starts behind him, James Tracy’s rise in the past two seasons has spoken volumes of his work ethic. Formerly a prop, the 25-year-old hooker is technically strong and brings huge energy with his ball-carrying.

John Ryan is another who has rather suddenly come into the Ireland frame. His conversion to the tighthead side has been a huge success. Any concerns Munster had in that area have rapidly evaporated with the Cork man’s exceptional form. Handling skills, mobility, scrum grunt, ruck work – Ryan has been brilliant.

Leinster’s Dan Leavy has been a rock under Leo Cullen this season, with his ball-carrying brutally effective and his comfort in handling also impressive. He has always been marked out as a major talent, and is now truly fulfilling that potential.

High-profile returns

Being able to completely change his XV and bring in players of the quality of Sean O’Brien, Paddy Jackson, Keith Earls and Peter O’Mahony is a major luxury for Schmidt.

Paddy Jackson Jackson is at 10 for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

O’Brien was disgruntled to be left at home for last week’s trip to Chicago, but he must prove his point. Now closing in on full match fitness, he needs to show the kind of form he is capable of with ball in hand and over the tackle.

Blindside flanker O’Mahony has come back to match speed well with Munster since his return from a nasty ACL injury, and again there is now a need for him to underline to Schmidt that he cannot go into the second All Blacks game without the Cork man’s lineout agility, footwork around contact, deft hands and sheer doggedness.

Earls missed out on potentially facing the All Blacks due to his red card in Munster’s win over Glasgow in the Champions Cup. After Andrew Trimble and Simon Zebo impressed so strongly in Chicago, he too has ground to make up.

As for Jackson, back in the squad after not travelling to the US, he is tasked with reminding Schmidt that he is the clear back-up to Johnny Sexton, and potentially a viable alternative to start.

Joey Carbery – on the bench against Canada – enjoyed a solid debut against the best team in the world and has a huge ceiling in his potential. Jackson, still only 24, will be keen to show Schmidt his very best playmaking and game plan-leading qualities.


As for the rest of the team, opportunities abound.

Ultan Dillane gets his first start for Ireland, and the chance to show Schmidt that he has the stamina and work rate to go the distance, rather than be bracketed into the role of impact player for the remainder of his Test career.

The Irish team lead by Peter O'Mahony Ireland train at Carton House today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

His Connacht team-mate Finlay Bealham also starts for the first time, while Sean Cronin and Cian Healy can apply some pressure to incumbents Rory Best and Jack McGrath with strong performances.

Kieran Marmion has had sparse chances to impress Schmidt in green but now must match the standard set by Conor Murray in the nine shirt.

At fullback, Tiernan O’Halloran needs to show composure and positional excellence to match his undoubted creativity and counter-attacking class. In midfield, Luke Marshall will look to impose himself alongside the inexperienced Ringrose.

Wide on the left, Craig Gilroy should be targeting a dominant defensive and aerial performance for Ireland, with his outright pace and finishing ability in no doubt. Off the bench, Dave Kilcoyne has a chance to remind Ireland of his impact and Donnacha Ryan will look to make another impression.

Opportunities everywhere, ensuring that this clash with Canada should be fascinating.

The42 is on Snapchat! Tap the button below on your phone to add!

13 months after his last cap, O’Mahony not taking Ireland return for granted

Proximity of toughest Tests tempers Irish excitement for Women’s Rugby World Cup

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next: