Irish young guns have much to play for in Limerick clash

Ulster's Paddy Jackson who debuts for Ireland against Fiji
Ulster's Paddy Jackson who debuts for Ireland against Fiji

IT may be an experimental Ireland side which faces Fiji in a non-cap game at Thomond Park, Limerick this evening (5pm) as part of the Autumn International Guinness Series, but for those given the opportunity to wear the green shirt are desperate to make something of it.

Three Ulster players will make their debut in the senior green shirt, backline trio winger, Craig Gilroy, centre, Luke Marshall and outhalf, Paddy Jackson.

Indeed, the backline is relatively inexperienced in terms of caps, although Ulster centre Darren Cave has plenty of experience of playing in big games with his club.

As it is, Fergus McFadden, who starts on one wing, is the most experienced players with 15 caps in the backline.

But his is excited by the prospect of linking up with the new arrivals and given them a boost ahead of the game.

“I’ve played with Darren Cave all the way through under-age, I’ve known him for years,” he said.

“Luke has slotted in very well and Paddy Jackson has an old head on young shoulders. Those lads are very promising, hopefully they will go well,” added McFadden, speaking like the player he has replaced on the wing for today’s game, Irish and British Lion Tommy Bowe, who has 50 caps under his belt, and not someone who still has to cut his cloth.

The Leinster winger added: “Fijians are renowned for how aggressive and physical they are,” said Leinster winger McFadden.

“They have massive men across the board - throughout the backs and in the forwards.

“They’ll be physically opposing, but we’ll be up for it because a lot of our lads didn’t get that much game time last week.

“We’ll be looking to come out of the blocks fast and impose our game plan on them.

“We want to put some structure on the game. Fiji feed off scraps and thrive on loose ball.”

Due to the non-cap status of tomorrow’s clash in Limerick, Ireland have been denied the chance to end their five-Test losing sequence.

They succumbed 16-12 to South Africa last Saturday in a match they should have won and conclude their autumn against Argentina in eight days.

“The mood’s been great, we’ve been flying, but getting pipped by South Africa was a disappointment,” McFadden said.