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Carbery at 10, another new centre combination and more Ireland team talking points

Joe Schmidt has made 13 changes for Saturday’s clash with Fiji.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS named his matchday 23 to face Fiji in the second Test of the November series on Saturday [KO 5.30pm].

Check out the 23 here.

A weekend of opportunity

Ireland team Huddle The Ireland squad at Carton House this morning. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Schmidt has juggled his resources this week as much to explore the depth in his squad as to maintain freshness and that 2019 World Cup vision is now driving the head coach’s agenda.

Saturday’s clash against Fiji has always been earmarked as the chance for those on the periphery to stake their claim in a green jersey and Schmidt has used the opening to delve into his squad to fully assess what he’s got.

The Ireland management are looking to shape a panel which has cover in every position and the intensity in camp over the last two weeks has reflected that, with Schmidt demanding the new faces meet the standards set during the win over South Africa.

While making 13 changes from last week, Schmidt has still retained some level of experience through the spine of the side with Devin Toner and Jack McGrath in the pack and CJ Stander, Cian Healy and Robbie Henshaw named on the bench.

The back line, however, has a very inexperienced look to it with just 44 caps among them.

Andrew Conway is one of two players retained from last week and has the platform to build on his performance against the Springboks at fullback, while Darren Sweetnam is handed a first start.

There’s a hugely exciting look to Ireland’s team, but also some concern over how it will all come together against a Fiji side who will provide an entirely different proposition to the ‘Boks.

With so many new faces and new combinations across the park, this is very much a new-look side but Schmidt insisted those given the jerseys this weekend are only in there because they are more than capable of performing at international level.

Carbery’s chance at 10

Joe Schmidt and Joey Carbery Schmidt speaks with Carbery during training this week. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Having played all his rugby at fullback for Leinster this season, Joey Carbery will, as expected, line out at 10 against the Pacific islanders in what will be his first start since limping out of the victory over USA in June.

Carbery endured a difficult afternoon that day in New Jersey, missing a couple of conversions and having two kicks blocked down before injuring his ankle which would force him home.

But the 22-year-old returned to pre-season fitter and stronger and has been outstanding for Leinster in the early stages of the season, particularly in the Champions Cup game against Montpellier when he showed real character after an uncertain start.

The Athy native made an impressive cameo off the bench last week and will hope to convert all that into a big performance at the Aviva this weekend, with Richie Murphy admitting Carbery is a ‘special talent.’

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Schmidt sees Carbery predominantly as an out-half, although the Irish management do recognise his versatility to play in a number of positions across the backline, and is viewed as the long-term understudy, and eventually successor, to Johnny Sexton.

“He’s a great guy to watch,” Murphy said. “You try to build opportunities in or around him and with some of our set-plays and stuff like that.

“At the end of the day, he is one of those guys who has an ability to beat people and those guys don’t come around very often in Ireland; there’s plenty of them in Fiji. That makes him a little bit special and a little bit different.”

Another new centre combination

Chris Farrell Munster's Chris Farrell is set to make his Ireland debut. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

All the focus last week was on Ireland’s number centre as he made his international debut and there will be another debutant in the 13 shirt on Saturday as Munster’s Chris Farrell wins his first cap.

Farrell will partner Stuart McCloskey in a physically imposing Ireland midfield with both men standing at well over six foot and hitting the scales at 110kg in what will be another new centre combination.

Farrell, who made his Ulster debut at 18 before opting to move to Grenoble to get game-time, returned home to join Munster at the start of the season, a move which opened the door for him to launch an international career.

A Farrell-McCloskey combo is a hugely exciting one and the pair, in tandem, could cause mayhem at the weekend with their physicality also set to be important against the direct running of Fiji.

McCloskey will make his first appearance since his debut against England in the 2016 Six Nations, with Schmidt’s selection once again underlining the depth of resources in Ireland’s midfield.

With Robbie Henshaw, who is named on the bench, and Bundee Aki set to start against Argentina next week and Garry Ringrose and Jared Payne both unavailable through injury, Schmidt is facing a selection headache further down the line. Also throw Munster’s Rory Scannell into the mix and there are a plethora of options for the head coach.

For now, Farrell and McCloskey get their chance and both will know how important it will be to grasp it.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Ryan Bailey

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