Ireland will kickstart their summer tour later today, fielding a total of 11 uncapped players in their squad to face Canada at Vancouver’s Thunderbird Stadium (kick-off 2pm local time/10pm Irish time).
SUMMER TOUR TEST MATCH: Saturday, May 23
CANADA v IRELAND, Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver, 2pm local time/10pm Irish time (live RTE Two)
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Team News: Head coach Declan Kidney has named the Ireland team and replacements to face Canada in the first game of the North American tour on Saturday.
Rory Best will lead a side that contains six new caps in the starting line-up and in addition, there are a further five possible debutants named amongst the replacements.
The pack has an experienced foundation through the leadership of captain Best and he will be accompanied in the front row by Tom Court at loosehead, starting his first game for Ireland, and Tony Buckley who starts at tighthead.
Bob Casey will end a nine-year break between his last cap, which was also against Canada in 2000, when he lines out at Thunderbird Stadium in the second row with Mick O’Driscoll.
There are two Test debutants is the back row where Connacht captain John Muldoon and Munster openside Niall Ronan join battle-hardened number 8 Denis Leamy.
The back-line contains four new caps, the first being out-half Ian Keatley who will partner Ireland’s most-capped scrum half Peter Stringer.
Outside Keatley, Ian Whitten and Darren Cave will form an all-Ulster centre combination.
Munster will be supplying the wingers for the game with Barry Murphy lining out on the right wing and debutant Ian Dowling named on the left with Gavin Duffy completing the back-three.
Meanwhile, Canadian head coach Kieran Crowley has named his team and replacements for Saturday’s Test match.
The Canada side features a number of experienced players that played on their November tour, which included a 55-0 defeat to Ireland at Thomond Park.
There is one new cap for the game in Vancouver, with Castaway Wanderers back rower Chauncey O’Toole donning the number 6 jersey.
Uncapped scrum half Phil Mack and prop Andrew Tiedemann have been named on the replacements bench.
There are a number of UK-based players in the Canada squad, including Glasgow prop Kevin Tkachuk, Bedford Blues full-back James Pritchard, Plymouth Albion’s Sean Michael Stephen and Cornish Pirates trio Ed Fairhurst, Scott Franklin and Mike Burak.
CANADA: James Pritchard (Bedford Blues); Dean van Camp (Velox Valhallians), Ciaran Hearn (Castaway Wanderers), Ryan Smith (Calgary Irish), DTH van der Merwe (James Bay AA); David Spicer (University of Victoria), Ed Fairhurst (Cornish Pirates); Kevin Tkachuk (Glasgow Warriors), Pat Riordan (University of Victoria) (capt), Scott Franklin (Cornish Pirates), Tyler Hotson (UBC Old Boy Ravens), Mike Burak (Cornish Pirates), Chauncey O’Toole (Castaway Wanderers), Adam Kleeberger (University of Victoria), Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins).
Replacements: Andrew Tiedemann (University of Victoria), Luke Tait (Stade Montois), Jebb Sinclair (Castaway Wanderers), Nanyak Dala (Castaway Wanderers), Sean Michael Stephen (Plymouth Albion), Phil Mack (James Bay AA), Ander Monro (Colorno).
IRELAND: Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht); Barry Murphy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Ian Whitten (Ballymena/Ulster), Ian Dowling (Shannon/Munster); Ian Keatley (Galwegians/Connacht), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster); Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Bob Casey (London Irish), Mick O’Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht), Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Replacements: Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Mike Ross (Harlequins), Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps), Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Referee: Chris White (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Canada to win: 15/2; Draw: 33/1; Ireland to win: 1/20
Pre-Match Quotes: Declan Kidney (Ireland) – “The aim of having this tour was giving younger players the kind of experience you’d like them to have going into a World Cup.
“There were lads who were playing during the Six Nations this year with 60 or 70 caps to their name.
“While they were collecting them over the last number of years, that means there are also fellas who weren’t picking up the experience.
“We’ve decided to give that experience to some of those other players on this tour and opportunities like that are few and far between.
“Obviously we wouldn’t have picked these fellas if we didn’t think that they had some potential.
“Then again, it’s one thing to have potential but it’s another to bring it out on a big day, and it’s important that they do that because there are some players in Irish rugby now who mightn’t be around in two years’ time.
“You have to cover all bases and that’s why it’s important to have this tour.
“Once you are playing at home, you can represent your country in a very dominate and physical way. I’m sure that’s what the Canadians will do.
“They are a proud team. It’s a bit of a role reversal from November, with us missing so many players and Canada boasting a pretty settled line-up.
“The new guys have had to work hard to come through our system. They’ve been waiting for this chance for a long time.
“They have to work hard to get here. That’s why we are excited in looking forward to seeing how they cope with the pressure of Test rugby.”
Kieran Crowley (Canada) – “Chauncey has played some outstanding rugby in the last five weeks.
“His performances in training have pushed him up there and he deserves a shot. It’s a reward for the all the hard work he’s put in.
“Andrew has come through the Under-20 programme and played quite well this year. He can cover both sides of the scrum as a prop which is very important.
“(The 55-0 defeat), what happened in the past is history. It’s all about what is going to happen on Saturday now.
“So we’ve been concentrating on preparations for Saturday. It’s a case of getting our system back in place and getting our combinations together.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Form: Canada – 2008/09: Autumn Test: Portugal 13 Canada 21; Autumn Test: Ireland 55 Canada 0; Autumn Test: Wales 34 Canada 13; Autumn Test: Scotland 41 Canada 0
Ireland – 2008/09: Autumn Test: Ireland 55 Canada 0; Autumn Test: Ireland 3 New Zealand 22; Autumn Test: Ireland 17 Argentina 3; RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 30 France 21; RBS 6 Nations: Italy 9 Ireland 38; RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 14 England 13; RBS 6 Nations: Scotland 15 Ireland 22; RBS 6 Nations: Wales 15 Ireland 17
Previous Meetings: 4 (1987 Rugby World Cup: Ireland 46 Canada 19, Carisbrook; 1997 Autumn Test: Ireland 33 Canada 11, Lansdowne Road; 2000 Summer Tour: Canada 27 Ireland 27, Markham; 2008 Autumn Test: Ireland 55 Canada 0, Thomond Park)