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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 15 July, 2020

'Workaholic' Ruddock captains as Schmidt looks for seamless Ireland debuts

Will Addison and Ross Byrne are set to win their first caps off the Ireland bench against Italy.

Murray Kinsella reports from Chicago

RHYS RUDDOCK WILL be looking to add to a successful record as Ireland captain when he leads Joe Schmidt’s side again on Saturday against Italy.

Having captained his country to three wins from three on the 2017 tour of the US and Japan before also leading Ireland to victory against Fiji in Dublin last November, Ruddock has fine credentials.

Rhys Ruddock Ruddock captains Ireland from the blindside flank. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Rory Best, Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton all left at home for Ireland’s trip to the US this week, Ruddock was always the likely captain and he will look to continue his 100% strike rate as skipper at Soldier Field.

Now the official vice-captain behind Sexton at Leinster too, the 27-year-old has always had leadership qualities to go along with his impressive skills on the pitch.

Having missed out on Ireland’s Grand Slam and their winning tour of Australia last season, Ruddock will be keen to reward Schmidt’s decision to back him as captain again on Saturday.

“Rhys has had some real frustrations with injury,” said Schmidt of Ruddock.

“He was really impressive during the Guinness Series last November and led the team superbly in Japan the summer before that. He is a workaholic on the pitch and prepares incredibly well off it, so he’s an ideal leader in the absence of Rory, Pete and Johnny.”

Ruddock’s calm influence will be useful in what is a rather experimental Ireland team missing a handful of senior players.

The likes of Joey Carbery, Luke McGrath, Tadhg Beirne, Andrew Conway and Andrew Porter get precious opportunities to add to their Test experience, while there will also be two new Ireland caps off the bench in Chicago.

Will Addison Ulster's Will Addison is set for his debut. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster out-half Ross Byrne, who was an unused replacement in the third Test against Australia in June, and Ulster fullback Will Addison are set to become Ireland internationals numbers 1106 and 1107.

“Like any of the replacements, I think the coaching group are really looking forward to seeing the players off the bench slot into the team as seamlessly as possible and for them to bring the strengths of their provincial form to the game on Saturday,” said Schmidt.

“Ross manages the game well, kicks and passes well but he’s also playing and carrying the ball with increasing confidence, which is what you want to see – players growing their game.

“Playing for Ulster, Will has shown the acceleration and footwork that we know he has. His versatility is a real asset off the bench and his passing and kicking skills make him a threat when carrying or transferring the ball.

“He slotted in well when he trained with us in Melbourne and we’re looking forward to seeing him bring that onto the pitch in Chicago.”

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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