Ireland coaching staff keen to see how young players cope under pressure ahead of New Jersey test
In conditions closer to an Irish summer’s day – damp and dreary and just 13 degrees- Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad loosened up with a light session this morning in New Jersey to kick off their tour of the US and Japan.
Having got the bulk of the heavy work out of the way in their week’s preparation in Carton House, tomorrow will be a down day, followed by a full session on Thursday and then a captain’s run at the Test venue, the 25,000 seater Red Bull Arena, on Friday.
And while New Jersey is a new experience for an Ireland squad, there is enough familiarity to put them in positive mood.
“We have good memories of being in the States in November,” forwards coach Simon Easterby says.
"This time around with a different group of players. A lot of excitement with some of the youngsters that are involved for the first time. It’s a great place to be in: we’re are in a great location, and we’re looking forward to what will be a great test and challenge for the lads on the weekend.
“There is a bit of inexperience, but there’s the experience of Cian Healy and Devin Toner particularly in the forwards. These tours were probably ear-marked for a bit of that inexperience to come through and build our depth.
"We are two years out from a World Cup. This is a great starting point for a lot of these young players to get an opportunity to spend time with them.
"To invest some time in them but to get to know each other as well and see how they perform under a bit of pressure. A bit more pressure than some of them are used to.”
That will come from a US Eagles side will want to follow up their Americas Rugby Championship success by beating Canada in the home and away World Cup play off series later this month.
“They’ll be desperate to put in a good performance to try and springboard their qualification into the two Canadian games,” Easterby says.
“They have plenty of experience as well. Obviously we are well aware of AJ MacGinty at 10 and his time at Connacht and his time now at Sale. But Nate Augspurger his half-back partner at nine, he’s electric: he can play on the wing as well and he’s a real threat.
“They have a lot of Sevens experience in the squad as well. They’re a real threat if we give them those opportunities. Mike Te’o, Madison Hughes: both real quality individuals with ball in hand.
"They’ve progressed as a forward pack under John Mitchell, and they’ve developed a really strong driving game. They have a couple of front rowers who are playing in the Aviva Premiership at the moment.
"They’ve certainly got much more depth and are a lot stronger than they were a few years ago and a real test for us.”
Back then the most significant development of the trip – to Houston in 2013 – was Simon Zebo’s call up to the Lions in Australia. So far all are present and correct, and employed solely by Ireland.