THE second of the autumn internationals saw an Irish XV take on Southern Hemisphere minnows Fiji at the weekend. Declan Kidney named an experimental side, deciding to use this as a platform for a number of fringe players to stake their claim for inclusion in the senior squad, and as an uncapped test Saturday's fixture had no bearing on Ireland's World Cup rankings.
Results elsewhere during the weekend have made the possibility of Ireland dropping out of the top eight ranked sides a worrying reality. Despite losing to South Africa, Scotland would still replace Ireland as the eighth ranked side if they were to defeat Tonga next weekend by more than 15 points and Ireland were to lose to Argentina by 15 or more.
Fiji, a side renowned for a powerful running style of rugby, never really got an opportunity to display those characteristics in Thomond Park, where the performances of Ireland's young Ulster contingent were most pleasing.
Man of the match Craig Gilroy cemented his reputation as a lethal finisher and all three of his tries were testament to this, while his Ulster teammates Paddy Jackson, Darren Cave and Luke Marshall also contributed handsomely to the victory.
Saturday's outing highlighted the calibre of young Irish players being developed within the provinces, and surely it is time to unleash these talented stars onto the international stage.
Throughout his tenure as Irish head coach, Kidney has consistently picked the same players in his starting XV, staying very loyal to a number of individuals in the current squad, and is hard to see any of these promising young players included in next weekend's squad for the final November international against Argentina.
The time has come for the Irish management to blood these youngsters and expose them to rugby at the highest level. However, we may not witness this until the current management's term in charge comes to an end.
The game of the weekend took place closer to home at Shamrock Lodge on Saturday. Boyne faced top-of-the-table Naas, who were met by a determined and focused Boyne side. A last-minute drop goal by captain and experienced full back Niall Kerbey ensured a vital victory for the home side who now lie third in the league table. With two fixtures remaining before the Christmas break, against Thomond away and Armagh at home, Boyne could well find themselves in top spot going into 2013.
Coach Craig McGrath appears to have found the perfect balance between youth and experience within his squad. The ambition and fearlessness of the young squad members, coupled with the experience and rugby knowledge of the seasoned campaigners, appears to be paying dividends.
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