Easterby and Howe's green light
THERE are two new caps and ten changes on the Irish team to face the US in Manchester, New Hampshire on Saturday.
Scrum-half Guy Easterby and left-wing Tyrone Howe will make senior debuts in a totally restructured Irish back line in which Rob Henderson is the sole survivor from the team which went down disappointingly to Argentina in Buenos Aires last weekend.
A vacancy has also been left at full-back where Geordan Murphy filled-in impressively at training yesterday.
Dominic Crotty, who arrived here late last evening (following his wedding on Monday), is the other possible for that position.
Peter McKenna, Anthony Foley and John Hayes - all suffering from varying leg injuries - were not considered.
Peter Clohessy, scheduled too return home this weekend, has been given a well-earned rest.
There is an outside chance he will stay on for the final game against Canada in Toronto, although Marcus Horan has arrived to provide extra cover in the front-row and will take his place on the replacement bench on Saturday.
The remaining changes behind the scrum see Ronan O'Gara team-up with Easterby at half-back, Mike Mullins joining Henderson in midfield and James Topping come in for Shane Horgan wide on the right.
Up front, there are changes in all three sectors of the scrum.
Justin Fitzpatrick and Paul Wallace replace props Clohessy and Hayes respectively, while Jeremy Davidson comes in for Mick Galwey in the second row.
Eric Miller replaces Foley in the middle of the back row. Only Henderson, Keith Wood, Malcolm O'Kelly, Simon Easterby and David Wallace retain their places from the side defeated by the Pumas.
There are two sets of brothers - the Easterbys and the Wallaces - in the side.
In addition, the four Irish Lions from the memorable tour to South Africa three years ago come together in green shirts for the first time since.
Alongside Wood, Paul Wallace, Davidson and Miller have all to play for.
It was very much down to business during a vigorous workout at the Earl Legacy Park, just outside Manchester, yesterday.
Heavy rains had been forecast but they held off long enough to enable Warren Gatland and Eddie O'Sullivan complete a very constructive attacking session.
O'Gara's slick ball handling off either side provided an opportunity for Murphy to look particularly impressive, with well angled runs at a fast pace.
A decision as to who will fill the last line of defence will be made following training this morning.
It will be a surprise if the talented and highly promising Murphy is not given the nod, with Crotty likely to get an opportunity the following week.
Despite the fact Saturday's game (7.0 Irish time) is a full international against an Eagles side on something of a roll, the Irish management are right to experiment at this stage.
That said, with Ireland having lost their last three games to the Welsh, the Barbarians and the Pumas, they will want to arrest the slide at Singer Family Park on Saturday. Wood will again captain the side.
The forecast for the remainder of the week is for hot and humid weather in stark contrast to the almost winter like conditions here since the Irish party arrived.
Elsewhere, Scotland coach Ian McGeechan has included 10 players from his victorious Calcutta Cup side in this week's opening tour match before the test series in New Zealand.
The Scots face Northland Vikings at Whangerei on Friday when Craig Joiner will start as competition for wing places hots up.
Number eight Martin Leslie and lock Scott Murray are missing, although it is hoped they will be fit to play some part in the second match against East Coast/Poverty Bay in Gisborne next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, London Irish have announced a move from The Stoop to the Madejski Stadium, Reading.
Chairman Geoff Read said: ``While we have been forced by Harlequins to move one year earlier than planned, we are delighted to have concluded this agreement with Reading FC.''
London Irish will continue to base their administration and player training operations at their old ground in Sunbury-on-Thames, where upgrading work will start shortly.
IRELAND (v US) - AN Other; J Topping (Ballymena), M Mullins (Young Munster), R Henderson (Wasps), T Howe (Dungannon); R O'Gara (Cork Con), G Easterby (Llanelli); J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon), K Wood capt (Garryowen), P Wallace (Saracens), J Davidson (Castres), M O'Kelly (St Mary's); S Easterby (Llanelli), D Wallace (Garryowen), E Miller (Terenure). Substitutes: P Stringer (Shannon), D Humphreys (Dungannon), K Maggs (Bath), A Ward (Ballynahinch), R Casey (Blackrock), F Sheahan (Cork Con), M Horan (Shannon).