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Dublin: 19 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020

5 players we'd like to see given a Test run for Ireland this November

Experimentation is a delicate balance, but these men deserve a chance to show what they can do on a bigger stage.

WITH HIS CONTRACT extension finally rubber-stamped, Joe Schmidt will today make the calls to summon players into his Ireland squad for what it is set to be a tough four-Test international window.

In half of those games, Ireland face the world champion All Blacks with the task not much easier against Australia. On paper, Canada provide a good opportunity for experimentation, but they too packed a punch when pitted against Ireland in the Rugby World Cup last year.

You might say, there are no easy games in international rugby. So no point in waiting around to give promising and in-form talent a chance to prove themselves capable of mixing it with the very best. Here are five we’d like to see in green before November ends.

Tiernan O’Halloran

Tiernan O’Halloran Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The sole reason we adjusted the parameters of this conversation to include men who have already been capped. O’Halloran, who is returning to fitness ahead of this weekend’s inter-pros, got an all-too brief chance to shine in the summer.

Unfortunately didn’t get a touch of the ball in the four minutes that made up his debut and his second cap was all-but ended when Willie Le Roux took him out in an aerial challenge. O’Halloran went off for a HIA and returned only to be replaced at half-time.

With fitness concerns rarely far away for Rob Kearney, fullback is an area where Schmidt could do with a specialist option. Jared Payne and Simon Zebo are the other lead contenders for the 15 jersey, but with an eye for a gap that looks unrivaled on this island and the hands to keep attacks going even if he’s caught after a line-break, O’Halloran has proven himself over and over as a brilliant operator in a thrilling Connacht counter-attack.

Garry Ringrose

A start for O’Halloran would free up Jared Payne for the centre position Schmidt seems to prefer playing him in. However, Leinster’s future superstar is showing a consistency in all elements of his game that belies his inexperience.

The 21-year-old became the driving force for Leinster in what looked set to be a lost cause in Montpellier on Sunday and through his line-speed, tackles and knack of finding space he helped his side steal an unlikely bonus point.

Schmidt often points to combinations with a familiarity when making his international selections. So with Robbie Henshaw nailed on to be inside centre, Ringrose’s recent history with the Athlone man might give his case for inclusion even greater weight.

Sean O’Brien (the new one)

With Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien (the Tullow Tank) back on the scene, competition in the back row certainly isn’t diminishing, but Connacht’s Sean O’Brien is an intelligent and versatile performer who looks set to be a cornerstone of his province for a decade to come.

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Sean O'Brien and Niyi Adeolokun during the warm up Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

The 21-year-old Galway man is at home in the second row, but is mobile and powerful enough in the tackle and with the ball in hand to be an extremely potent weapon from the blindside too.

Iain Henderson is currently the archetype for O’Brien’s style of play, and with the powerful Ulsterman facing at least two weeks out with a shoulder injury, the Galwegian would be a terrific addition to the camp for the next month.

Darren Sweetnam

With Dave Kearney injured and Keith Earls’ availability still subject to a disciplinary hearing there is sure to be a slot opening on the wing at some point this autumn. Schmidt loves to keep a physical presence out wide and Sweetnam would certainly provide that.

Darren Sweetnam with Garry Ringrose Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The former Cork hurler has not only showed his engine this season, playing 80 minutes in all seven of his province’s games, but also displayed great aerial ability and excellent footwork in the tackle that forces defences to commit an extra man his way.

Niyi Adeolokun

The Dubliner has been a revelation since nailing down his place in Connacht’s starting line-up, providing an electric outlet on the right to punish teams who dare to defend narrowly against the champions.

Along with Sweetnam, the Dubliner was called in to a mini-camp with Schmidt and a wider squad earlier this month, but with a rapid rate of improvement over the past 18 months, a few weeks on the international scene could make his a frightening prospect.

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Sean Farrell

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