5 things we want to see from Ireland's Emerging talent

Allen Clarke’s squad are in Tbilisi Cup action this weekend and, because it’s World Cup year, we have a list of demands for him.

JUST WHEN YOU thought senior rugby had packed itself off in to Styrofoam for the summer, the Tbilisi Cup kicks off this weekend.

Allen Clarke and Girvan Dempsey’s Emerging Ireland squad have already landed in Georgia and a few members of the squad can still hold out some hope of being involved when the the big show rolls around in September.

So, before the Emerging talent takes on their counterparts from Italy, Uruguay and Georgia over the next 10 days, here’s what we’re hoping to get out of this end-of-season shadow tour.

Lots of Stephen Archer

The Munster tighthead is one of five full internationals in the 27-man squad in Tbilisi and although the quality of opposition will be a grade below what most of this squad are used to, the front rows will remain fiercely competitive.

MunsterÕs Stephen Archer  26/12//2014 Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

While it’s great to see untested players get game time in tournaments like this, for the year that’s in it we’d prefer seeing Archer being further battle-hardened against props from Georgia, Italy and Uruguay (who will include many of their senior internationals) after an already impressive season.

The Munster man stands a chance of getting on the plane in September, but if anything were to happen (touch wood with a rabbit’s foot that it doesn’t) Mike Ross, then he’ll have minutes on the field in England too.

Rhys Ruddock dominating

The stand-out name on the squad list, Ruddock looked a sure thing for Joe Schmidt’s preferred matchday 23 until injury mid-season. Now, with Chris Henry back making his presence felt on ruck after ruck, Ruddock is probably third choice in all three back row positions at the minute.

Rhys Ruddock and Alberto Chiesa Rhys Ruddock and Alberto Chiesa of Italy Source: GRU/INPHO

On this tour the 24-year-old must lead by word and deed, attacking every ruck and ball-carrier to make sure Ireland remain on the front foot.

Hitting the heights of his performance against South Africa won’t be easy with lower caliber team-mates, but his time to impress is running out and he has more than anyone to gain from Tbilisi.

More playmakers

Have a scan down through the squad list and you start to come up short in a few positions and one of the shirt numbers with little obvious competition is 10. JJ Hanrahan is obviously the stand-out candidate and it will be great to see him start at least two fixtures before he heads off to wear a different green jersey in the Premiership next season.

As good as the Kerryman is, he can’t play 240 minutes in eight days, so Clarke and Dempsey will instead have to use the creative instincts of centres Rory Scannell or Noel Reid.

Source: noel.reid/Instagram

At 21 and 25 respectively, Scannell and Reid have little meaningful experience pulling the strings at senior level. However, when they are there, we fully expect their absence from 12 to mean Stuart McCloskey will provide an easy gainline option to ease them in to a rhythm.


I know, we’re obsessed with outside centre in this country. But while it’s refreshing to see Eoin Griffin called in to this squad, the Galway man is the only overseas-based player to make it and he also happens to be the only recognised 13.

A dejected Eoin Griffin Eoin Girffin (right) with fellow Exile Eamonn Sheridan. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Between Jared Payne, Darren Cave. Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose the international jersey seems to be booked for the medium, long and slightly longer term, but it’s always comforting to have more in reserve.

IrelandÕs Cian Kelleher

Before the loss to Barbarians, Les Kiss earmarked Cian Kelleher as a potential 13 option and so the Leinster man will likely be the one to step in from the five ‘back three’ players selected.

Rugby Analysis

Get Murray Kinsella's exclusive analysis on the URC interpros and Champions Cup clashes this December

Become a Member

Clear eyes, full hearts, soft hands

Tours and tournaments like this are no win situations. Winning is cause for a shrug and losing will cause minor panic and major disappointment.

To truly give themselves the best possible chance of pushing for a World Cup berth, furthering their game or just plain boosting confidence; players must make this look like the furthest thing possible from an end-of-season tour.

Billy Holland and Robin Copeland in a maul Ireland in action against Romania last year. Source: FFR.RO/INPHO

By that, we mean limiting the unforced errors that normally litter these games and not allowing structure and rhythm to completely fizzle out. Intensity can’t simply be turned on and off, but it would be nice to see it in arrive in coherent spurts to keep the set-piece on track and quick ball churning from the ruck.

After that, young back-line should have ample space to work in and no excuses for dropped passes.

Emerging Ireland fixtures (All kick-off times Irish):

v Emerging Italy (13 June, 2pm)

v Uruguay (17 June, 2pm)

v Georgia (21 June, 4pm)

Originally published Thursday, 15.20

Hanrahan, McCloskey and three internationals start for Emerging Ireland against Italy

Clermont ‘sick of losing finals’ as they size up Stade for Top14 decider

New Zealand Under 20s ran in four spectacular tries and still almost suffered a shock defeat 

About the author:

Sean Farrell

Read next: