Big chance for 'Emerging' stars
Published 13/06/2015 | 02:30
Since its inception in 2013, never before has the Tbilisi Cup held more significance for the Emerging Ireland side.
With less than 100 days to go until Ireland kick off their World Cup campaign, Joe Schmidt will be keeping a close eye on several players as he looks to finalise his squad.
In the past couple of years, the tournament has been seen as an opportunity for fringe players to force themselves into the reckoning for the Autumn internationals and subsequently the Six Nations.
Schmidt has already stressed that there are several "exciting prospects" included in Allen Clarke's squad and that the Tbilisi Cup is an "ideal challenge" for them so there shouldn't be any shortage of motivation. Ireland won the tournament last summer and kick off the defence of their title against Emerging Italy this afternoon (2.0 Irish time).
The likes of captain Rhys Ruddock, Stuart McCloskey and Jack Conan who was a late call up will all be eager to catch Schmidt's eye against an Italian side who will similarly want to impress Jacques Brunel ahead of his final World Cup selection.
Dan Leavy makes up an impressive, all-Leinster back-row along with Ruddock and Conan while Ben Marshall who recently signed with Connacht, starts in the second-row.
JJ Hanrahan gets a chance to show Munster what they will miss when he links up with Northampton. The powerful McCloskey, who finished the season so well with Ulster, is named in the centre alongside Eoin Griffin.