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Schmidt lauds 'leadership' of Rhys Ruddock as Irish team to play Italy in Chicago is revealed

Update: Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has lauded the leadership skills of Rhys Ruddock after naming the Leinster forward captain for Saturday’s Test against Italy at Soldier Field.

By Simon Lewis in Chicago

Ruddock, 28, will reprise the role he undertook on Ireland’s 2017 summer tour to the USA and Japan, when a developmental squad won all three Tests under his captaincy.

Head coach Schmidt has named an exciting if inexperienced side to face the Azzurri, with Munster’s Joey Carbery named at fly-half in a backline that makes outside centre Garry Ringrose, 23, the most capped player with 14 appearances.

Ringrose forms a midfield with Bundee Aki while Carbery, on his 23rd birthday, named to make his fourth start as he wins his 13th cap in a half-back partnership with scrum-half former Leinster team-mate Luke McGrath.

Jordan Larmour, 21, has earned his first start, at full-back, a week after being nominated for World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year, and is part of a back three with wings Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale.

Ruddock leads a forward pack anchored by loosehead prop Jack McGrath, the most experienced player in the Ireland team with 50 caps. McGrath will pack down alongside hooker Niall Scannell with Andrew Porter at tighthead prop.

Tadhg Beirne completes a quartet of Munster players named in a second row with Connacht’s Quinn Roux while the back row sees Ruddock start at blindside flanker, Josh van der Flier on the openside and Jack Conan completing a Leinster trio at No.8.

Schmidt has been delighted with Ruddock’s work ethic and leadership and called him an “ideal leader” ahead of his 20th cap in the absence of Ireland captain Rory Best and his vice-captains Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton.

[quote]“Rhys has had some real frustrations with injury,” the Ireland head coach said. “He was really impressive during the Guinness Series last November and led the team superbly in Japan the summer before that. He is a workaholic on the pitch and prepares incredibly well off it, so he’s an ideal leader in the absence of Rory, Pete and Johnny.”[/quote]

There is a chance of two debut appearances from the bench with Leinster’s Ross Byrne named as back-up fly-half and Ulster’s versatile back Will Addison covering the outside positions following his summer move from Sale Sharks.

“Like any of the replacements, I think the coaching group are really looking forward to seeing the players off the bench slot into the team as seamlessly as possible and for them to bring the strengths of their provincial form to the game on Saturday,” Schmidt said. “Ross manages the game well, kicks and passes well but he’s also playing and carrying the ball with increasing confidence, which is what you want to see – players growing their game.


“Playing for Ulster, Will has shown the acceleration and footwork that we know he has. His versatility is a real asset off the bench and his passing and kicking skills make him a threat when carrying or transferring the ball. He slotted in well when he trained with us in Melbourne and we’re looking forward to seeing him bring that onto the pitch in Chicago.”

IRELAND (to play Italy): J Larmour (St Mary's College/Leinster); A Conway (Garryowen/Munster), G Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), B Aki (Galwegians/Connacht), J Stockdale (Ballynahinch/Ulster); J Carbery (Clontarf/Munster), L McGrath (UCD/Leinster); J McGrath (St Mary's College/Leinster), N Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), A Porter (UCD/Leinster); T Beirne (Munster), Q Roux (Galwegians/Connacht); R Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster) - captain, J van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), J Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (St Mary's College/Leinster), D Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), F Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht), D Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), J Murphy (Lansdowne/Ulster), J Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster), R Byrne (UCD/Leinster), W Addison (Enniskillen/Ulster).

Will Addison with Joe Schmidt

Earlier: Ireland team to play Italy in Chicago revealed

The Ireland coaching group have named the match day 23 that will take on Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday.

Both Will Addison and Ross Byrne will likely earn their first Ireland caps off the bench.

Rhys Ruddock captains the youthful side, and is joined in the back row by Leinster teammates Josh van der Flier and number 8, Jack Conan.

Quinn Roux partners Tadhg Beirne in the second row, while hooker Niall Scannell is joined in the front row by Leinster props Jack McGrath and Andrew Porter.

Jordan Larmour starts at full-back, with Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale manning the wings.

Garry Ringrose partners Bundee Aki in the centre.

And in the absence of both Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton, Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery form the three-quarters.

Ireland are back at the scene of their historic victory over the All Blacks two years ago, and Joey Carbery is delighted to return to the Windy City.

The Rugby Weekend fixture against Italy will be broadcast by Eir.

Digital Desk