Interim head coach Les Kiss will take charge of Ireland for the first time, with Peter O’Mahony also making his bow as team captain, as the summer tour gets underway against the USA in Houston tonight.
2013 SUMMER TOUR: Saturday, June 8
USA v IRELAND, BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas, 7.45pm local time/1.45am Irish time (live TG4/www.tg4.tv worldwide stream)
Team News: The Ireland team to play the USA at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston on Saturday night has been named.
There are two new caps, both of whom were Ireland Under-20 internationals this season. Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw starts at full-back and Stuart Olding from Ulster is included in the starting line-up at inside centre.
Three other players – Ian Madigan, David Kilcoyne and Iain Henderson – will start for Ireland for the first time having previously been capped off the bench.
There are a further three uncapped players among the replacements with forwards Mike Sherry, Jamie Hagan and Tommy O’Donnell all included.
Mike Ross is the most capped player in the selected team and he packs down in the front row with Richardt Strauss and Kilcoyne.
Mike McCarthy and Devin Toner form the second row pairing with Henderson and Chris Henry on either side of Ireland’s summer tour captain Peter O’Mahony in the back row.
Speaking ahead of the game, interim head coach Les Kiss said: “We’ve had a good week of preparation and the players have settled well in Houston.
“This is a young team with five players starting for the first time and we are under no illusions as to the challenge posed by an experienced and improving USA Eagles team.”
The Test match will be broadcast live on TG4 with the ‘Rugbaí Beo’ coverage getting underway at 1.20am (Sunday morning).
There will be a full replay of the game on TG4 later that day at 12.05pm. In America, the Universal Sports Network will be showing the Houston encounter live.
Highlights and behind the scenes footage from the Irish summer tour so far can be seen on www.youtube.com/O2Rugby.
Meanwhile, Cork-born back rower John Quill has been selected on the replacements bench for the USA’s Test encounter with Ireland in Houston.
It will be the Dolphin clubman’s fifth senior cap for the Americans if he gets onto the BBVA Compass Stadium pitch, with the 23-year-old qualifying for his adopted country courtesy of his mother Eileen who hails from New York.
Quill is not the only Irish link in the Eagles’ matchday squad with former Dublin University captain and Ulster Ravens forward Scott LaValla starting in the back row.
Shawn Pittman, who played for Trinity in the Ulster Bank League this year, packs down at loosehead prop and continues the link with Dublin University director of rugby Tony Smeeth who operates as the USA’s backs coach.
Former Galwegians and Connacht scrum half Robbie Shaw, who was part of the Ireland Under-21 squad that reached the World Cup final back in 2004, joins Quill among the replacements.
Number 8 Todd Clever will captain an experienced USA team which includes international professionals Samu Manoa, Takudzwa Ngwenya and Chris Wyles. Chris Biller and Mike Petri have also recovered from their recent injuries.
Manoa and Ngwenya were recently involved with the Barbarbians for their tour matches against England and the British & Irish Lions and they met up with the Eagles in Houston earlier this week.
A total of 10 players survive from the Eagles’ 2011 Rugby World Cup pool defeat to Ireland in New Zealand, with the 22-year-old Seamus Kelly, who made his debut last time out against Canada, starting in the centre.
USA: Chris Wyles (Saracens); Luke Hume (Old Blue), Seamus Kelly (University of California), Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins), Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique); Toby L’Estrange (New York Athletic Club), Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club); Shawn Pittman (Dublin University), Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate), Eric Fry (London Scottish), Brian Doyle (New York Athletic Club), Louis Stanfill (Vincenza Gers), Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints), Scott LaValla (Stade Francais), Todd Clever (NTT Shining Arcs) (capt).
Replacements: Zach Fenoglio (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club), Nick Wallace (St. Mary’s), Phil Thiel (Life), Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore), John Quill (Dolphin), Robbie Shaw (Richmond), James Paterson (Glendale Raptors), Adam Siddall (Old Blue).
IRELAND: Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht); Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster); Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster); David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Chris Henry (Malone/Ulster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) (capt).
Replacements: Mike Sherry (Garryowen/Munster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Jamie Hagan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster).
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant Referees: Bryan Arciero, Chris Assmus (both Canada)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): USA to win: 10/1; Draw: 40/1; Ireland to win: 1/25
Pre-Match Quotes: Les Kiss (Ireland) – “We expect that the US feel there is a chance for them. We just have to be aware of that and we’re not in a position with three or four minutes to go, thinking, ‘what’s hit us here’. We need to be on top of our game from the first whistle, it will be a tough test.
“The tour was mainly an opportunity on two fronts – for players to learn about what it is like to prepare for Test matches and also to be involved in Test matches on the pitch. The other side of that is for the coaching staff to be informed about what they are capable of.
“That is the opportunity I’ve given this week, but it doesn’t leave anyone out of the picture for next week (against Canada).
“There’s a great situation in the camp at the moment, we’re not carrying any injuries and everyone’s fit. So, it is just a case of giving those opportunities and probably bringing a bit more experience into our team next week.”
Mike Tolkin (USA) – “Our aim is to win. It’s our aim every time we get out on the field. But what we’re really looking for is to play a complete game of rugby under the pressure of a tier one nation – that means executing what we intend to do on defence and on attack, and executing what we want to do under tier one pressure.
“In the last World Cup we pushed Ireland well (before losing 22-10). So much of it now will be about players believing in themselves. So much of rugby is about talent, sure, but believing in yourself goes a long way.
“I know we have athletes, I know we have some good experience in our squad. We have a lot of tools to bring to the table, and those guys believing they can do it will go a long way. It’s really been building over the past year.
“We’re under no illusions about what’s in front of us, and what our odds are, but we do have a belief in what we do and that we can do it.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2004: Autumn Test: Ireland 55 USA 6, Lansdowne Road
2009: Setanta Challenge Cup: USA 10 Ireland 27, Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara
2011: Rugby World Cup Pool C: Ireland 22 USA 10, Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth