A feast of international rugby begins on Friday week with the Ireland ‘A’ team’s encounter with the All Blacks XV at the RDS (kick-off 7.45pm). Tickets are on sale now from Ticketmaster.
Do not miss you chance to see some of Ireland’s best emerging players go up against New Zealand Rugby’s newest team in black – the All Blacks XV.
The initial list of players included on the Ireland ‘A’ panel features Emerging Ireland tour captain Max Deegan, towering Munster lock Tom Ahern, and exciting Ulster centre James Hume, who has three Test caps.
The All Blacks XV are coached by Leon MacDonald for their inaugural tour, and the travelling squad includes the likes of TJ Perenara, Aidan Ross, Luke Jacobson and Shaun Stevenson.
The return of Ireland ‘A’ to the Irish Rugby landscape is a welcome one, bringing back memories of those hugely entertaining ‘A’ internationals on the eve of a big Five or Six Nations Saturday.
The team last played as Ireland ‘A’ in January 2010 before being renamed the Ireland Wolfhounds, whose last outing was against England Saxons at Musgrave Park in January 2015.
Tagging the RDS match on to Ireland’s busy Bank of Ireland Nations Series schedule offers another developmental opportunity for players, on the back of the two Māori All Blacks games in the summer and the recent Emerging Ireland tour.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell views it as a win-win situation for both players and management, as they continue to increase the talent pool heading into 2023 and offer game-time against quality international opposition.
Asked about the reasons behind the ‘A’ fixture, Farrell replied: “Opportunity, finding opportunities for people. I’ve constantly said over the last few years that competition has to be all of our best friends.
“I said to the players exactly that this morning, when the other lads come in, the twelve extras who come in for the ‘A’ game next week, there will be 47 to 50 players in the room.
“Have a look around because you’re all going to be competing against each other certainly over the next twelve months (heading towards the Rugby World Cup).
“You’ve got to embrace that and rise to that, and be the best team-mate that you can possibly be within that type of situation as well.
“We created opportunities there in New Zealand with the Māori games. But what does that type of experience stand for if you don’t back it up? So, we’ve got to find ways of backing it up.
“The ‘A’ game is a fantastic opportunity for people to show that they’re able to perform at this level, because that 100% is going to be a massive step up from the Māori games in itself.”
He added: “We’ll see how the land lies after that because people are fighting for a Test spot. It’s obvious that we go from the two Māori games to the ‘A’ game and the Emerging Ireland stuff.
“They’re non-cap games as such, so people are desperate to play for Ireland, but like all things, you’ve got to earn the right to be able to do that.”