Ireland coach Declan Kidney has continued to throw the net across the talent pool in Irish rugby by announcing a much-changed Ireland ‘A’ team to play Georgia in the Churchill Cup on Sunday in Colorado (kick-off 3.30pm local time/10.30pm Irish time).
The summer tour to North America and the Churchill Cup tournament were planned to allow the Ireland coaches access to as many of the up and coming professional players as possible and the team that played Canada on Wednesday in the Churchill Cup was an illustration of this.
There were 14 changes between the ‘A’ team that faced Canada in midweek and the one that played them in the summer Test at the end of May
The players and coaches are continuing the theme for this weekend with a further nine changes to the side that won the Churchill Cup opener 30-19.
Sunday’s clash with Georgia will see seven players starting an Ireland game for the first time this summer.
Cian Healy starts at loosehead prop in place of Bryan Young, with Denis Fogarty, a late try scorer against Canada, pencilled in at hooker in place of Sean Cronin.
Donnacha Ryan retains his place in the second row and is joined there by Trevor Hogan who swaps his spot on the bench from the Canada game with his Leinster team-mate Devin Toner, who was man-of-the-match on Wednesday.
Niall Ronan, who won his first full Ireland caps against Canada and the USA last month, comes into the team in the back row in place of the unfortunate Sean O’Brien who has returned home with a knee injury.
Churchill Cup tour captain John Muldoon will also make his first start of the tournament, coming in for Chris Henry at number 8.
With Jonathon Sexton already having experience of working with the Ireland coaches and faring well in the Heineken Cup, Niall O’Connor is given another start at number 10 to build on his work on the senior tour and get more vital game-time in the pivot position.
Frank Murphy, who was used as a second half replacement in the Canada game, takes over from Isaac Boss at scrum half.
There are three new faces in the back-line with James Downey, Simon Keogh and Ireland ‘A’ debutant Felix Jones all promoted to the starting line-up.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s game, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports 2, Ireland coach Declan Kidney said: “I was particularly pleased at the way in which the side kept in the game on Wednesday and showed great composure to pull through and win.
“That will be great experience and is something that will stand to them.
“We are continuing to try and look at players who we may not always have the opportunity to work with during the season.
“The game against Georgia gives us another chance to see how the players fare at this level against a side that will be certainly anxious to put in a good performance after being stung by Canada last weekend.”
A second victory would see Ireland ‘A’ qualify for the Churchill Cup final for the first time, after winning the Plate final three times in the last three years.
You can also follow the Ireland ‘A’ v Georgia showdown here on IrishRugby.ie with our O2 MatchDay Live service.
IRELAND ‘A’ TEAM & REPLACEMENTS (v Georgia, 2009 Churchill Cup, Infinity Park, Glendale, Colorado, Sunday, June 14, kick-off 3.30pm local time/10.30pm Irish time):
15 – Felix Jones (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
14 – Simon Keogh (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
13 – Fergus McFadden (UCD/Leinster)
12 – James Downey (Northampton Saints)
11 – Johne Murphy (Leicester)
10 – Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
9 – Frank Murphy (Buccaneers/Connacht)
1 – Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
2 – Denis Fogarty (Cork Constitution/Munster)
3 – Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster)
4 – Trevor Hogan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
5 – Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
6 – Neil Best (Northampton Saints)
7 – Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster)
8 – John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht) (capt)
16 – Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht)
17 – Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster)
18 – Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
19 – Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster)
20 – Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster)
21 – Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
22 – Keith Matthews (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Ireland ‘A’ Churchill Cup Schedule:
Georgia v Ireland ‘A’, Sunday, June 14, 3.30pm (local time)/10.30pm (Irish time), Infinity Park, Glendale, Colorado (live Sky Sports 2)
Play-Off Finals Day, Sunday, June 21, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Denver, Colorado (all finals live Sky Sports 1)