Peter O’Mahony will captain Ireland this Saturday in the GUINNESS Series against Canada at the Aviva Stadium in his first outing in a green shirt since last year’s Rugby World Cup. There are three uncapped players in the new-look team and a further five named in the replacements.
Flanker Peter O’Mahony, who skippered Ireland to two wins during the 2013 summer tour of North America, is joined in the back row by Sean O’Brien and the uncapped Jack O’Donoghue.
O’Brien returns to the openside berth for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury against France last February, while the 22-year-old O’Donoghue from Waterford will pack down at number 8.
O’Donoghue’s Munster colleague Billy Holland will also make his Ireland debut, featuring in the second row alongside Ultan Dillane, who turned 23 yesterday and is set for his first start in seven international appearances.
Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Finlay Bealham – last week’s replacement front row from the historic win over New Zealand – are promoted from the bench to line out together from the off, with Connacht prop Bealham making his maiden Test start.
In the backs, Kieran Marmion has been handed his first start in the number 9 jersey after six caps as a replacement. He will be partnered at half-back by fellow 24-year-old Paddy Jackson, who kicked 40 points during the recent summer tour of South Africa.
There are new combinations at centre and in the back-three too, as Leinster’s Garry Ringrose makes his Test bow alongside Luke Marshall, and Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran – selected at full-back for his second start since June – is flanked by returning wingers Craig Gilroy and Keith Earls.
The five potential debutants on the Irish bench are Leinster’s James Tracy, Dan Leavy and Luke McGrath, Connacht’s flying winger Niyi Adeolokun and Munster prop John Ryan. The latter’s provincial colleague, in-form loosehead Dave Kilcoyne is poised for only his second cap since August 2015, and Donnacha Ryan and Joey Carbery – two members of the winning squad against New Zealand – complete the matchday 23.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has selected a youthful side, with Cronin and debutant lock Holland the only 30-somethings in the starting line-up. The back-line has an average age of 24.7, the forwards 27 and the bench 25.5.
Speaking about some of the new inclusions, Schmidt said: “Garry was really close to playing last week, he’s trained really well. He gives us confidence that he’s ready. I don’t doubt that he’s confident. It’s an exciting day for him.
“I think with Garry there’s experience either side of him, it’s a nice entry into the Test arena. Garry’s a really natural player, he sees things, he’s ahead of the game. While being lean, he’s strong.
“I’ve seen Jack since he captained the Ireland Under-20s and been impressed with him as a player and a potential leader. We do think giving him an opportunity at 8 is probably a good place for him to be.
“He also gets to start with Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony, which is an ideal mix for him to have some real experience either side of him.
“A lot of what Billy Holland has delivered is quality work-rate. He’s been accurate, he’s astute in the lineout and that allows him to be very effective. He impressed us with how quickly he picked everything up.”
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Canada, 2016 GUINNESS Series, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, November 12, kick-off 7.15pm)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (Buccaneers/Connacht)
14. Craig Gilroy (Bangor/Ulster)
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) *
12. Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)
11. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
10. Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster)
9. Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
2. Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
3. Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
4. Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht)
5. Billy Holland (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) (capt)
7. Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
8. Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster) *
16. James Tracy (UCD/Leinster) *
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster)
18. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
19. Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
20. Dan Leavy (UCD/Leinster) *
21. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) *
22. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Leinster)
23. Niyi Adeolokun (Galwegians/Connacht) *
* Denotes uncapped player