Eight Ulster players in Irish panel to face Fiji

Iain Henderson is on top of his game at present
Iain Henderson is on top of his game at present

The focus on Thursday may have been on the fact that three uncapped players were named in the Ireland XV side to start against Fiji on Saturday but for several others they are stating their case to be involved in the big clash against Argentina next week in Dublin.

Backline trio, centre Luke Marshall, fly-half Paddy Jackson and winger Craig Gilroy were all named to start against Fiji at Thomond Park, Limerick, in what is a non-cap game.

They are joined by Darren Cave, the Ulster centre getting an opportunity again after a cameo appearance in New Zealand during the summer tour having been left in the wilderness since gaining two caps on the North American tour in 2009.

On the bench, there is a long overdue call up for scrumhalf, Paul Marshall and Chris Henry is also on the replacements.

Up front, Dan Tuohy gets a deserved start in the second row, while young backrow Iain Henderson, who gained his first Irish cap last weekend when he came off the bench in the 16-12 loss to South Africa, is handed a start.

For Henderson this could be a huge opportunity to stake his claim for the starting position against Argentina.

Ireland coach, Declan Kidney, is better known for his conservative selection, but his hand has already been forced for the Autumn International Guinness Test series and it is refreshing to see him prepared to finally blood some of the young talent that exists in the Provincial clubs.

Henderson has already filled the boots of Stephen Ferris in the Ulster side and there is no reason why he cannot do it at international level.

The Irish Under-20 international is obviously delighted by his sudden rise in the professional ranks, but he is not getting carried away by it all.

Speaking exclusively to the News Letter via his agency, Sportology, Henderson said: “It is great to be getting a start now.

“I enjoyed every minute I was on last week. I was overwhelmed with pride.

“It was amazing running out in front of a large crowd like that.

“It will be the same this week, irrespective of it being a non-cap game, to me it is another huge honour, a huge occasion and I am looking forward to it.”

Henderson said he had experienced mixed emotion last week.

“It was amazing to win my first cap with Ireland, but it was so disappointing to lose in such a tight encounter.”

Coach, Declan Kidney said: ““We know this will be a difficult test and this is a vote of confidence for the players we’ve picked.

“We know they’ll do a job and they’ve been training really well over the last two and a half weeks. We feel they deserve their go,” added Kidney.