Monday 11 December 2017

New faces impress Ireland coach Schmidt

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt saw his side hammer USA
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt saw his side hammer USA

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt hailed his five new caps following Saturday's nine-try rout of the US Eagles in New Jersey.

Despite missing 11 frontline players on Lions duty in New Zealand, the visitors had far too much firepower for their American opponents as Schmidt handed Test debuts to Jacob Stockdale, Dave Heffernan, Andrew Porter, James Ryan and Rory Scannell.

Ulster wing Stockdale scored a try just 15 minutes into his first Ireland outing while Leinster lock Ryan raced over for a try barely a minute after he replaced Quinn Roux on the hour mark.

Connacht hooker Heffernan, Leinster tighthead Porter and Munster centre Scannell also got through plenty of work on an encouraging evening for a youthful Ireland side.

"I think just watching some of the young players work their way into the group they will have learnt a huge amount from this experience," said Schmidt.

"Five new caps, that's exciting for us. It's really exciting for them. James Ryan didn't muck around too long getting his first Test try. I thought Andrew Porter was probably very unlucky not to be awarded his one.

"There's a buzz amongst the young guys and there's also a bite of reality amongst the older guys like Rhys (Ruddock) who know that there are further steps to climb."

Ireland leave New York for Tokyo on Sunday as they gear up for a two-Test series with Japan, who they will face in Pool A at the 2019 World Cup.

The Brave Blossoms warmed up for their impending clashes against Ireland with a 33-21 victory over Romania at Umakana Yokana Stadium in Kumamoto.

Powerful Melbourne Rebels number eight Amanaki Mafi caught the eye and will command plenty of attention from the Irish defence over the coming weeks.

"I knew in that heat they'd want to play with a lot of tempo and back their fitness," added Schmidt on Japan's win.

"They did it very well. You could see how they managed to keep scrums to a minimum and making just one handling error in the first half helps!

"I think they've got a really good balance in their midfield now, and they'll be as big, if not bigger, than our lads there on Saturday. And I think what might surprise some people is that their aerial game is so good.

"You saw as well the quality of some of their big players: Michael Leitch for example is a really smart leader for the Chiefs (in Super Rugby) and his timing for that try was outstanding. And I've spoken to Tony McGahan (in Melbourne) about this kid Mafi at number eight - and he can really play. So I guess for us the challenge is to make sure they have no time on the ball."

Meanwhile, flanker Rhys Ruddock, who captained Ireland for the first time in Saturday's 55-19 victory in New Jersey, is hoping his side can build on a productive week in New York ahead of their two-Test series in the Far East.

"We've really enjoyed the whole week," said the Leinster blindside.

"The whole experience has been tough. We've had a lot of rugby-orientated things.

"It was my first time (in New York) and what an amazing city it is. The best experience had to be the game (against the US Eagles), getting the win and just the atmosphere.

"The amount of Irish (at the game), we knew it would be like that but there was some atmosphere. Depending on who had the ascendancy in the game, you could hear the volume, either way.

"So, it was just a really good experience playing in that."

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