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Opportunity knocks for one last time before Ireland’s 31-man squad is finalised for the World Cup when Joe Schmidt announces his side to face Wales in the Principality Stadium on Saturday at lunchtime on Thursday.
Will Addison is in line to start at fullback in his first appearance of the warm-up programme while Jack Carty is expected to make his first Test start outside Connacht halfback partner Kieran Marmion, with Peter O’Mahony set to captain the team from openside.
Addison’s injury woes of last season and delayed pre-season have seemingly dropped him down the pecking order but a strong showing in Cardiff would augment his valuable versatility. Addison can play at fullback or centre, and can even fit in on the wing and outhalf at a push.
Schmidt’s encouraging update on Joey Carbery’s recovery from an ankle operation augurs well for his chances of making the plane to Japan, not least given his versatility, but it still seems likely that a third outhalf will be named alongside Carbery and Johnny Sexton.
Of his five appearances to date off the bench, Carty particularly caught the eye with an eight-minute cameo – which by rights should have been longer – in this very same stadium last March. His late intervention at least prevented Ireland being ‘nilled’ in that 25-7 defeat which sealed a third Welsh Grand Slam under Warren Gatland’s watch.
If Carty can demonstrate his ability to organise the team and do the basics, in addition to providing his spark of creativity, his chances of travelling to Japan will be greatly enhanced.
Dave Kilcoyne is also likely to have a chance to stake his claims for inclusion in the squad, and ditto Niall Scannell and John Ryan in all-Munster frontrow. James Ryan has been pencilled in for his seasonal re-appearance along Iain Henderson, one of just four players retained from last week’s starting XV against England.
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