5 talking points from Joe Schmidt’s Ireland selection to face Georgia
5 talking points from Joe Schmidt’s Ireland selection to face Georgia

5 talking points from Joe Schmidt’s Ireland selection to face Georgia

Foley and Ryan to debut

The Munster lock has been impressing the southern province’s coaching staff and supporters for some time now, and Schmidt has clearly been watching the Clonmel lock’s progress too.

Foley is excellent at the line-out. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Excellent around the rucks, hard-working in defence and a superb line-out operator, Foley faces a tough first task for Ireland in taking on the powerful Georgian forwards. His enthusiasm, energy and efficiency should be important for Schmidt’s side.

Schmidt is well aware of the qualities of Ryan, having worked with him at Leinster prior to taking up his role as head of the national team. The 24-year-old has played at openside recently, but slots in with the six jersey on his back for this weekend.

There may be a further debut for Ireland off the bench, with Munster man Robin Copeland included among the replacements. While his provincial career has yet to take off, the Wexford native offers ball-carrying dynamism.

Madigan takes over at 10

With Johnny Sexton getting a chance to put the feet up this weekend, his Leinster teammate-to-be takes responsibility for running Schmidt’s game plan from the out-half position.

Madigan slotted a late penalty for Ireland last weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Given Georgia’s relative weakness in the backs, it is expected that Ireland will broaden their attacking palate this weekend, a duty for which Madigan is ideally built. That said, kicking foundations will remain central for Schmidt’s side, so Madigan will need to control that aspect of the game too.

Having been shunted around from out-half to fullback to centre for his province this season, Madigan will be looking forward to playing in his favoured position on Sunday. Schmidt will demand a dominant performance from his number 10.

Darren Cave in from the cold

One name we perhaps didn’t expect to see in an Ireland XV this month was Darren Cave, given that the Ulster centre wasn’t even named in Schmidt’s original 37-man squad for this series of Tests.

Cave performed well in Argentina during the summer. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

According to sources, Cave was briefly in holiday mode last week as Ulster were given time off, but Schmidt has turned to the 27-year-old this weekend, having indicated last month that Cave was indeed still on Ireland’s radar.

The seven-times capped centre started both Tests for Ireland on June’s tour of Argentina, meaning he will have been able to get back up to speed swiftly. Against this Georgian backline, Cave will be expecting to shine.

Mike Ross a vital figure

After a 73-minute outing upon his return from injury last weekend, Ross will again start for Ireland on Sunday. Up against a savage scrummaging side in Georgia, it appears Schmidt and scrum coach Greg Feek feel they cannot risk Rodney Ah You from the off.

Ross is an experience, calming figure in the Ireland scrum. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

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The Connacht man has scrummaged encouragingly for his province this season, but facing a pack that is made up of several Top 14 behemoths is no easy task for such an inexperienced international player.

While Ross ideally could have been rested for this fixture before returning against the Wallabies, it may work out well that he is given more game time to get up to speed after his recent stint on the sidelines with a groin issue.

Key men rested, chances abound?

The make-up of this Ireland selection may provide some hints as to how Schmidt is going to approach the Australia clash next time out.

O’Donnell will be backing himself to retain his place at openside for the Wallabies clash. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Robbie Henshaw’s absence appears to suggest that he will start against the Wallabies, quite possibly in the 13 shirt outside D’Arcy, should the veteran centre impress on Sunday. The midfield make-up next weekend may depend on Jared Payne’s recovery.

Sexton, O’Connell, Toner, Heaslip, Kearney and Bowe were always sure to start the third fixture of Ireland’s series, but then there are other positions which are less nailed on. Should Richardt Strauss impress on Sunday, could he jump above Sean Cronin at hooker?

In the back row, would an outstanding performance from Tommy O’Donnell see him push into the XV to face Australia instead of Rhys Ruddock? Can Craig Gilroy do enough attacking damage to perhaps nudge in front of Simon Zebo for next weekend?

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