Wednesday 17 January 2018

Tony Ward: Kick off in USA can't come quick enough - I'm so excited to see this attacking Ireland side

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Many first-choice names might be either injured or on Lions duty but the Ireland team picked by Joe Schmidt to take on USA Eagles is a statement of intent.

We have is match-day squad with five uncapped players and another 11 with Test appearances in single figures. Just how exciting is that? Oh to be a James Ryan, an Andrew Porter, a Jacob Stockdale, a Rory Scannell or a Dave Heffernan starting out again.

And put yourself in the place of the head coach. He could have been on Lions duty had he so wished but for Schmidt this is the essence of coaching. To have the opportunity to work uninterrupted for the best part of a month, including three full-blooded Tests, and in the process bringing the best of emerging talent to another level represents a dream scenario.

All eyes may be on Christchurch in the morning but I suggest a fair few will be tuning in much later in the day to see how an Irish side so clearly designed to attack gets on. While the Eagles will have organisation in the quest for World Cup qualification top of their agenda, for Ireland and this young line-up, there is a different type of demand.

With the exception of Jordan Larmour (another laid low through injury), the presence of Ryan, Porter and Stockdale from last year's U-20s is a massive statement of intent. Good enough has always been old enough in my book and on this evidence Schmidt is thinking along similar lines.

We in Irish rugby have never been good at giving youth its fling when countries with far greater resources have seldom been shy at doing just that. To that end this Lions tour and its timing, given that it includes so many Irish, is a godsend.

From the attacking potential behind the scrum, and in every position starting with Tiernan O'Halloran at the very back through Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery to the clever balance in the pack, this tour whets the appetite more than any in the recent past. Kick-off time in New Jersey can't come quickly enough.

Irish Independent

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