Andy Farrell could hand all five uncapped players in his Ireland squad a start in tomorrow’s first game of their tour against the Maori All Blacks in Hamilton (8.05am Irish time).
The Ireland head coach is keen to ensure that every player gets game-time in New Zealand, and as such, Farrell is likely to include Jimmy O’Brien, Ciarán Frawley, Jeremy Loughman, Joe McCarthy and Cian Prendergast in his team.
Ireland’s preparations have been hampered by Mack Hansen testing positive for Covid, while Iain Henderson and Rob Herring have undergone scans following injuries picked up at training on Saturday. Munster hooker Niall Scannell is on his way to New Zealand as cover at hooker.
Ahead of Saturday’s first Test at Eden Park, the All Blacks have been rocked by a Covid outbreak, with head coach Ian Foster, assistants John Plumtree and Scott McLeod, as well as centres David Havili and Jack Goodhue testing positive. As a result, Joe Schmidt has been drafted into the coaching set-up.
Farrell (pictured) has been happy with how his players have settled, and with O’Brien impressing in training from full-back, he may make up the back-three along with Jordan Larmour and Keith Earls for the uncapped clash with the Maori.
Bundee Aki is in line to captain Ireland for the first time alongside James Hume in midfield. Despite mainly playing at centre for Leinster, Frawley could get the nod at out-half, with Craig Casey at scrum-half.
Loughman, Dave Heffernan and Tom O’Toole look to be the starting front-row, with McCarthy set to partner Kieran Treadwell in the engine-room. Prendergast, Nick Timoney and Gavin Coombes could form a dynamic back-row.
Having already picked up injuries at training last weekend, Farrell will make a final decision on his team following today’s session.
Ireland (possible team to play Maori All Blacks) – J O’Brien; J Larmour, J Hume, B Aki (capt), K Earls; C Frawley, C Casey; J Loughman, D Heffernan, T O’Toole; K Treadwell, J McCarthy; C Prendergast, N Timoney, G Coombes. Reps: D Sheehan, C Healy, F Bealham, T Beirne, R Baird, C Murray, H Byrne, M Lowry.