'It's an opportunity to broaden the base' - Schmidt issues challenge to young guns to make their mark
Ireland could have another five new caps by the close of business against the US Eagles in New Jersey on Saturday after Joe Schmidt announced one new cap, in Jacob Stoockdale, in the starting lineup and another four on the bench.
It reflects the rapid progress made by a handful of players from last year’s U20 World Cup with James Ryan and Andrew Porter joining Stockdale from that squad. Dave Heffernan and Rory Scannell are also in line to be capped.
"I think the young guys were impressive in the World Cup," Joe Schmidt said.
"I think their performance in the World Cup last year was impressive, full stop. We’ve had a few guys come through from the last few World Cups – it’s also an opportunity to broaden the base a little bit and those guys can form part of that based on their performances in the next three weeks.
“It’s really about building a base and the potential we see in them. I guess we learn a bit more about them when we get them away on tour, get to know them and they also get to know the expectations. They’ll get to know a bit more about what the expectations are at the top level when they play on Saturday.”
The coach added that injury was not an issue in selecting the side.
“No there were a few guys who were carrying knocks but I don’t think anyone was left out as a result of that. Simon was a bit sore early on in the week and he was probably one guy who was best left a bit longer.”
For hooker Dace Heffernan, his selection on the bench probably represents the most unlikely journey given he is a convert to the position in the last few years, but his form with Connacht marked him out early this season as a likely contender to travel.