Rugby This is one huge extension.
JOE SCHMIDT HAS this afternoon announced his first team of the World Cup summer, as Ireland begin their four-match warm-up series against Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
You can view the full team here, while below we take a closer look at some of the main talking points from today’s announcement at Carton House.
Race to Japan hots up
Carbery in training at Carton House this week.
Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
The battle for the half-back places behind Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will hot up on Saturday afternoon, as Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery are handed rare starting opportunities in the nine and 10 jerseys respectively.
With Sexton, who suffered a thumb injury in pre-season, and Murray kept in cold storage for the time being, Leinster’s McGrath gets the nod ahead of Kieran Marmion, who is on the bench, and John Cooney to push his case for inclusion for Japan.
After missing the Six Nations through injury, McGrath will make his first Ireland appearance since November 2018, and it is a chance, you feel, he needs to seize with absolute conviction to stand any chance of getting on the plane.
“I’ve just got to put my hand up,” the Leinster nine said on Tuesday.
“I suppose in attack, keep the game flowing, keep pace on the ball. In defence, just slot into the line when I need to, play a good kicking game, not just be solid but you’ve got to show what you can do.
Show you’re versatile if you’re in different positions, different scenarios, just keep a calm head. It is our first game of the season as well, so there will be mistakes.
Carbery, meanwhile, is a near-certainty to make the 31-man squad but will also be keen to get back on the pitch in a green jersey and remind Schmidt of his qualities at 10, with Jack Carty and Ross Byrne also in contention behind Sexton.
Carty, who is coming off the back of a superb season with Connacht, is likely to win his fourth cap off the bench on Saturday, while Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell form the midfield partnership.
In addition to the battle for positions at centre, competition is intense in the back three too. Dave Kearney returns to the starting XV for
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