There are two uncapped players included in the Ireland squad for the opening game of the GUINNESS Summer Series against Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).
Munster’s Jean Kleyn will make his international debut in the second row alongside Devin Toner, with the new-look Ireland side captained by Rhys Ruddock. It will be the seventh time Ruddock had led the team since June 2017.
Ireland’s captain for the day is joined in the back row by Jordi Murphy and a fully-fit Tommy O’Donnell, who won the last of his 12 caps against Scotland in March 2016. The Tipperary man is looking to put an injury-disrupted 2018/19 season behind him, which included shoulder surgery last January.
The starting pack is completed by Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and young tighthead Andrew Porter, who makes his fourth Test start. Former Leinster team-mates Joey Carbery and Luke McGrath combine at half-back, with the latter scoring his second try for Ireland against Italy in Chicago last November.
Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell pair up for the first time in an exciting midfield partnership, as the Munster powerhouse switches to inside centre. Dave Kearney, who last played for Ireland against Fiji almost two years ago, returns on the left wing in a back-three completed by Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway.
The second uncapped player in the squad is Munster’s Mike Haley who will be joined on the bench by Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty. Ireland’s first warm-up game ahead of the Rugby World Cup will be broadcast live on RTÉ 2 and Channel 4.
Speaking at the team announcement in Carton House, Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell said:
It’s a big game for a lot of people this weekend. It is a Test match, the first (match) of the season, which is unusual for the guys. Cohesion is the word we’ve been looking for all week. Having said all that, the plan’s there, the strategy is there, but they’ve got to play the game as it happens.
“It’s not going to be perfect. No game is perfect, especially the first one of the season. But can we stick to a plan? Can we adapt on the run? Can we see the game for what it is? That’s all part of the process.
“(We’ve been keeping an eye on Jean) ever since he stepped foot into a Munster jersey. We’ve obviously been tracking everyone through the country anyway. You’re always looking at everyone in the provinces and Jean made it very clear from the start that he was very keen to wear an Irish jersey.
“His time has come at the weekend. We’ve got some good locks. It’s a very attritional position for us and there could be really good players across the board that are going to miss out.”
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Italy, 2019 GUINNESS Summer Series, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, August 10, kick-off 2pm):
15. Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 13
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 12
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 20
12. Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 5
11. Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 17
10. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 18
9. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 10
1. Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Ulster) 54
2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 7
3. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 14
4. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 64
5. Jean Kleyn (Munster) *
6. Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 21
7. Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 12
8. Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Ulster) 27
16. Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 14
17. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 88
18. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 18
19. Iain Henderson (Queen’s University/Ulster) 44
20. Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 5
21. Kieran Marmion (Galwegians/Connacht) 25
22. Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 3
23. Mike Haley (Munster) *
* Denotes uncapped player