The Emerging Ireland team and replacements have been named for Friday’s IRB Tbilisi Cup opener against tournament hosts Georgia.
The new annual tournament is part of the IRB’s ongoing strategy of increasing the competition schedule for tier two nations.
Ulster players Michael Allen, Michael Heaney, Rob Herring, Lewis Stevenson and Robbie Diack all start with Niall Annett and Ricky Lutton benching. Peter Nelson has also been drafted into the tour squad to replace the injured Andrew Conway and given the calibre of the team named I would expect to see him in the match day team list next time round.
Emerging Ireland captain Rhys Ruddock, out-half Ian Keatley and prop Michael Bent are the three senior capped players named in the starting line-up to face Georgia.
The Emerging Ireland side will be battling it out against some of the strongest developing nations in world rugby, Georgia, South Africa President’s XV and Uruguay, in the coming days.
The matches will be played in the Georgian capital with the teams competing in a round robin format.
Hopefully the IRFU are getting paid good money for this tournament given that 70% of the touring squad won’t get near an Ireland senior start. However given the current butchering of of the Grand Slam winning Women’s team, as they are pushed towards the 7’s game for short term gains, maybe the IRFU could have made better use of it’s resources organising some competitive matches for Ireland Women XV ahead of next season’s World Cup!
My feeling is that Ireland will find this a fairly difficult tournament facing two teams of narly old pros and, I’d guess, a fairly physical South African side but it should be a good physical test for the forwards. The tournament may have value in developing squad players for the provinces and I’ll be particularly interested in seeing how Diack and Herring feature and I hope young Annett gets plenty of game time to give him an opportunity to reinvigorate his career after a bit of a wasted season.
I’ve also high expectations for Heaney, who played well for Ulster when he got the chance, and it’ll be interesting how far Allen is ahead of the rest of the backs.
Emerging Ireland head coach Allen Clarke is looking forward to the opening game and the challenge of playing an experienced Georgian side.
“The squad has gelled together and prepared well, it’s a young side and there is huge potential there. The Georgian side are very physical and we have to match that. We are looking forward to the game tomorrow evening,” he said.
15 – David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) *
14 – Niall Morris (Leicester Tigers/Exile) *
13 – Eoin Griffin (Galwegians/Connacht) *
12 – Michael Allen (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) *
11 – Tiernan O’Halloran (Galwegians/Connacht) *
10 – Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster)
9 – Michael Heaney (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) *
1 – Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) *
2 – Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) *
3 – Michael Bent (Leinster)
4 – Lewis Stevenson (Malone/Ulster) *
5 – David Foley (UL Bohemians/Munster) *
6 – Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt)
7 – Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster) *
8 – Robbie Diack (Malone/Ulster) *
16 – Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) *
17 – Richard Lutton (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) *
18 – Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
19 – Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster) *
20 – John Cooney (Lansdowne/Leinster) *
21 – Noel Reid (Clontarf/Leinster) *
22 – Brendan Macken (Blackrock College/Leinster) *
* Denotes uncapped player
EMERGING IRELAND FIXTURES – IRB TBILISI CUP:
Friday, June 7: Georgia v Emerging Ireland, Avchala Stadium, 7pm local time/4pm Irish time
Tuesday, June 11: Emerging Ireland v South Africa President’s XV, Avchala Stadium, 5pm local time/2pm Irish time
Sunday, June 16: Uruguay v Emerging Ireland, Avchala Stadium, 5pm local time/2pm Irish time