Preview: Ireland v Fiji
Fri, 16 Nov 2012 09:31
A revamped Ireland team will be determined to show what they are capable of when they take on Fiji at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Coach Declan Kidney has rung the changes for this non-Test international as he takes a look at the depth available to him in an attempt to build on their narrow defeat to the springboks next week.
Mike Ross, Conor Murray and newly-appointed captain Jamie Heaslip have been retained from the Ireland team that started against South Africa last weekend.
Former Ireland Under-20 international Paddy Jackson will partner Murray at halfback with his Ulster colleagues Luke Marshall and Darren Cave forming the centre partnership outside him.
The back-three comprises of the uncapped Craig Gilroy on the left wing with Fergus McFadden on the right and Denis Hurley at fullback.
David Kilcoyne, who won his first cap last weekend, will pack down alongside Sean Cronin and Ross in the front row, while Dan Tuohy and the 89-times capped Donncha O'Callaghan will link up in the second row.
Heaslip anchors the scrum with Iain Henderson, a debutant as a replacement against the Springboks, and John Muldoon taking the blindside and openside flanker berths respectively.
Kidney said that although it was disappointing to get overhauled by the Springboks in the second half last week, the spirits are high in the squad as they look to bounce back against the Pacific Islanders.
"Nobody likes losing a match but the spirit is actually really good. The lads will have a better answer to that than myself but I couldn't be asking any more of them," he said.
"There hasn't been a second in training where they've slackened off in terms of work-rate. Their enthusiasm is actually quite infectious.
"Training has been brilliant and the craic around the camp is the same as it always is. There are too many pros there who don't want to be just playing matches and getting losses."
On selection matters, Kidney said he knew within the first minutes of Monday's training session at Carton House that these young guns deserved a shot at the touring Fijians.
"We know that it will be a full test for us and it's a vote of confidence in the fellas that we've picked.
"These lads who are playing have been training really well over the course of the last two-and-a-half weeks and we feel they deserve their go.
"You have this feeling in the lead-up to matches and fellas would feel good about it but when you get to five minutes before kick-off and the referee's calling you and you go into that 'oh crap' moment and they have to take a deep breath and go for it, that's what I'm really looking forward to seeing.
"And if these lads do what they've been doing week in, week out in a green jersey, then brilliant for us."
Heaslip is pleased with how this inexperienced bunch has quickly gelled together as they bid to give Ireland a winning lead-in to the Series finale against Argentina.
"We've looked at what we did right and what we did wrong against South Africa and then started focusing on Fiji," he explained.
"With their Sevens pedigree, we know they like an expansive game. At times the game can get a little bit fractured which they thrive on.
"But we have to focus on ourselves, our structures and patterns. We've to concentrate on the basics because of the new faces and that's what we've been doing this week.
"We hit the ground running on Monday and everyone's been really focused. I can't wait to get out there."
2009: Ireland won 41-6 in Dublin
2002: Ireland won 64-17 in Dublin
1995: Ireland won 44-8 in Dublin
Prediction: Ireland may have made wholesale changes to their team, but their forward power should be enough to get Fiji on the back foot and although the visitors may be able to create a few exciting moments, they are not likely to sustain pressure for the full 80 minutes so we are backing Ireland to win by 20 points.
Ireland: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 John Muldoon, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Donncha Ryan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 Simon Zebo.
Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Simeli Koniferedi, 13 Vereniki Govena, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Jonetani Ralulu, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Malakai Ravulo, 6 Iliesa Ratuva, 5 Api Naikatini, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Deacon Manu (captain), 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Jerry Yanuyanutawa.
Replacements: 16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Manasa Saulo, 18 Setefano Somoca, 19 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20 Jovili Domolailai, 21 Kelemedi Bola, 22 Saula Radidi/Ravai Fatiaki, 23 Timoci Matanavou.
Date: Saturday, November 17
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Kick-off: 17.30 (17.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain, high of 13 low of 8, 20 kph south-westerly breeze
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Neil Hennessy (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
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