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Arnold's hard-earned opportunity and more talking points as Schmidt names side to tackle USA

John Cooney will get a big chance to show his ability before Conor Murray comes back into the fold next year.

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt named his team for the last of this year’s November internationals today with a raft of changes on show after last week’s momentous win over New Zealand.

See the full team here, read Schmidt’s update on his contract future or stay here for some immediate takeaways on seeing the team-sheet.

McCloskey returns

Stuart McCloskey’s time as an international to caps-won ratio is far higher than he would like it to be, but the ‘Bangor Bulldozer’ feels he is a better decision-maker since he won his last cap and certainly since his debut in Twickenham in 2016.

McCloskey has been in excellent form for Ulster this season and the recall is richly deserved. However, it is a year since the Ulster centre lined out in the win over Fiji and that can only make it a more difficult task for him to bed into the system and structure of Ireland’s midfield.

Garry Ringrose and Stuart McCloskey Garry Ringrose's presence will help blend McCloskey into the game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That is the hurdle he must clear to stand any chance of challenging men like Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell and Robbie Henshaw who have been immensely impressive each time they have taken the field.

All-purpose Addison

Many expected Will Addison to take a centre slot from the start this weekend having come in and impressed Schmidt when he was called at late notice to replace Robbie Henshaw for the win over Argentina. Instead, Ulster’s summer signing has been given another chance to show his wares at fullback.

Will Addison Will Addison in training today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Addison came off the bench in Chicago to play fullback to good effect in Chicago while Jordan Larmour grabbed the headlines by completing his hat-trick after being switched the wing.

The move seems to push Andrew Conway down another notch in the depth chart for the 15 shirt, but he can take solace in at least being on the field this week to show his aerial skills and his flexibility to cope anywhere in the back three won’t be quickly forgotten by Schmidt. 

Cooney gets a chance to shine at 9

A fourth cap for John Cooney will be his first start, and just reward after his stellar form throughout last season for Ulster. 

John Cooney John Cooney at today's team announcement. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

We will have to wait until mid-match to see whether his excellent ball-striking brings him goal-kicking responsibilities, but you would expect Schmidt has tasked him with focusing on the core duties at scrum-half and forming a partnership with Joey Carbery.

Every scrum-half on the island is aware of the need to show great form while Conor Murray remains absent. Luke McGrath got a solid run as replacement 9 against the All Blacks, but he will hope to be able to show much more of his running threat when set loose in the second half on Saturday. 

Hard-earned opportunity for Arnold

Sam Arnold has waited patiently for his first Ireland cap, but he is set to earn that honour before Saturday night is out.

The explosive Munster centre has been a regular feature in Ireland camp all year, having been called in to train at Carton House before the beginning of the Grand Slam campaign. He gets his chance in the final international of 2018 after working hard to personify the collective effort of the ‘yellow bibs’, the wider squad who play such a key role in preparing the front-liners.

Sammy Arnold Arnold in Maynooth today. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It’s the kind of Test which can often quickly lose intensity if the dominant team don’t sense enough need for urgency. And Schmidt hailed the work ethic of the former Ireland U20, who will bring his power through contact in the hope of adding momentum to Ireland’s attack when he is called upon.

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Sean Farrell

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