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Schmidt to give Ireland's wider squad opportunities against the USA

There will be plenty of hungry players eager to make an impression this weekend in Dublin.

WITH WINS OVER Italy, Argentina and the All Blacks in the bag, Ireland will look to complete their second consecutive clean sweep of the November Tests this weekend against the USA.

After Joe Schmidt’s frontline players expended huge amounts of physical effort and mental energy in downing the All Blacks, the Ireland boss is expected to make wholesale changes.

A view of the Ireland squad during training Ireland trained at Carton House yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Fatigue from last weekend is part of the picture, but Schmidt and his coaching staff are also keen to give members of their wider November Test squad opportunities.

Looking forward, the Grand Slam defence looms early next year, then Ireland only have their four warm-up fixtures before the 2019 World Cup begins.

As such, Saturday’s clash against the ever-improving US is a crucial testing ground as Ireland continue to look for greater depth in their squad.

“We have had roughly 43 players in camp at different stages over the last three weeks,” said Ireland assistant coach Richie Murphy yesterday.

“Guys have come in and done a really good job, put their best foot forward even though they haven’t been in the team, so some of those guys deserve opportunity and will probably get it this week.

“But in this place, you don’t get anything unless you have worked really hard and you have proved that you deserve your opportunity.”

So changes are expected when Ireland confirm their matchday 23 tomorrow afternoon.

“One of the things that we would strive for is that it is seamless,” said Murphy.

Niall Scannell Niall Scannell is likely to be involved this weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“That you come into an environment, you come into both attack and defence and that you understand what your role is within that and that you seamlessly go into that situation.

“Some of the combinations won’t be fully natural and maybe won’t have played together before but everyone understands the philosophy of our defence and the philosophy of our attack and what we are trying to achieve.

“So as long as they can buy into that and they work together, they will solve the problems that they need to on the pitch.”

With Rob Kearney and Jordan Larmour having returned to Leinster this week, a back three of Will Addison, Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam – unused so far this autumn – would make sense, even if Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale are still in the squad.

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Munster’s Sammy Arnold could be set for his first cap in midfield – whether from the start or off the bench – while Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey is set for his return to Test rugby, having last played against Fiji this time last year.

The Ulsterman has been in superb form for his province and Ireland will be expecting him to bring that into the green shirt.

“He is a big man playing in the centre at what? 6’4” and 112 kilos or something close to that, so he is obviously a very effective ball-carrier,” said Murphy. “How he links up defensively is obviously going to be very important at the weekend.

“If you look at what USA are going to bring, they will bring a very physical game plan with their centres carrying very, very hard in the middle of the park so there will be a test there for our 10-12-13 channel and they will have to be good in that area.

Stuart McCloskey McCloskey is set for another chance in midfield. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The big thing for Stuart is to go out and apply himself in relation to what we are trying to achieve in attack and bring the game to them rather than waiting for them.”

Joey Carbery and Ross Byrne are set to be the two out-halves on duty with Johnny Sexton likely to get a weekend off.

Carbery would benefit from further exposure while Byrne, who Murphy called “a very intelligent player,” is set for his second cap.

Luke McGrath and John Cooney are the two scrum-halves remaining in the Ireland squad after Kieran Marmion’s ankle injury, meaning an opportunity for Schmidt to add to the experience in that positional depth chart.

Up front, Dave Kilcoyne is set for an opportunity at loosehead prop, while Niall Scannell could come in at hooker. Finlay Bealham and John Ryan are hungry for opportunities at tighthead, although Schmidt might be tempted to give Andrew Porter further exposure.

Tadhg Beirne will be eager for another chance in the second row, where he could be partnered by Iain Henderson, although Quinn Roux is another option.

Leinster’s Jack Conan is likely to come in at number eight, while Rhys Ruddock could captain the team from the blindside flanker, as he did in Chicago against Italy, while Jordi Murphy is in contention at openside flanker, along with Josh van der Flier.

- This article was updated at 7.50am to indicate that Ross Byrne is set for his second cap, rather than his first.

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Murray Kinsella

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