IRELAND play the US Eagles at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening with a host of newcomers hoping to use the opportunity to propel themselves up Andy Farrell’s pecking order.
Ireland’s seven British and Irish Lions are obviously absent, along with injured would-be Lion Andrew Porter, while experienced players like Jonathan Sexton, Keith Earls and Cian Healy are sitting these Tests out as at this stage of their respective careers they will not really benefit from playing against Japan and the USA in the middle of the summer.
This match was always going to be seen as the easier of Ireland’s two summer Tests, and therefore this was the weekend where most of the uncapped contingent were more likely to see action.
Last Saturday against Japan Farrell went with the strongest team available to him in the absence of the above-named players.
He got his win, so it should be different this week, as we can expect to see ten players making their international bows against the US Eagles, even if some of those will be off the bench.
Munster youngsters Gavin Coombes and Craig Casey would have been disappointed to have only gotten ten and two minutes, respectively, last weekend in the 39-31 victory over Japan, and they will be hoping to get significantly more time in the green jersey on Saturday.
With regards Casey’s lack of game time there were extenuating circumstances given the injuries to Jordan Larmour and Chris Farrell, as another injury in the backline could have let Ireland down a man had he been brought on too early.
In Coombes’ case, however, there was no need to leave his introduction so late.
One can only assume that Ireland head coach Andy Farrell wanted the game safe before introducing the debutant from Skibbereen, but there was hardly much risk in bringing on Munster’s player of the year.
That in itself says a lot about Ireland right now.
The head coach is overly cautious as he prioritises getting a win in the bag over the long-term development of the side.
If the team cannot approach a summer Test against Japan without a sense of fear and conservatism then when can it?
Given that Casey was sent out on interview duty during the week we can assume that he will be heavily involved at the weekend, although it is also important that Caolin Blade gets time on the pitch as well, as his form for Connacht for a while now has warranted an international call-up.
Fresh from a high scoring tryfest against Japan last Saturday, Ireland may well find themselves involved in another one this weekend, if the USA’s game against England last Sunday at Twickenham is any indication.
The American’s lost 43-29, scoring four tries in the process, with Luke Carty, brother of Connacht and Ireland outhalf Jack, kicking three conversions and a penalty in the defeat.
England may have had 12 new caps in their match day 23, but it was still a relatively positive showing from a side that have not played together since the 2019 World Cup, and who only came together as a squad a few days before the England game.
In saying that, there is no reason why Ireland should fear the USA, and the match must be used to give as many younger players as possible a taste of international rugby.