Ulster hooker Rob Herring was given a tremendous boost yesterday when he was named the starting number two for Ireland’s opening Test against Australia tomorrow.
With Irish captain and first choice hooker, Rory Best, unable to travel due to injury, head coach Joe Schmidt handed the honour to Best’s stablemate Herring to start.
It will be his 10th Irish senior cap and is reward for his performances in the white jersey when standing in for Provincial captain Best.
Herring will want to take the opportunity to put his hand up for the third Test as Schmidt will no doubt rotate his squad for the second Test next weekend - especially if they can continue their winning streak.
Leinster’s Sean Cronin had been expected to get the nod first up, but Schmidt has opted to rest several Leinster players after a hectic end of season saw them achieve the European Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 Championship double.
However, Herring would still be considered a stronger all around candidate in the hooker department - Cronin’s biggest contributions coming off the bench in the green shirt.
Meanwhile, the big talking point from Schmidt’s announcement for his first Test was the selection of Joey Carbery ahead of Jonathan Sexton at outhalf.
Carbery has been in the headlines last week before Ireland left when it was confirmed he would have to switch provinces from Leinster to Munster if he wanted to continue to be considered as a ‘10’ for Ireland.
And now Carbery has been given an early opportunity to show his intentions, starting ahead of Sexton.
Sexton, capped 73 times, was a key component in Ireland’s Grand Slam success earlier this year, finishing the NatWest 6 Nations as the tournament’s third-highest points scorer with 44.
But Munster-bound Carbery will start at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium with Sexton, who last month led Leinster to European Cup glory, having to make do with a place on the bench.
“Some of those players have had some reasonably tough weeks and it was an opportunity for some of those guys,” Schmidt said at his pre-match press conference.
“We really wanted to get Joey out there at some stage and we thought the best way was to give him the longest preparation window.
“It was a surprise to see Joey going to Munster, we didn’t know he would get that opportunity.
“But we had already spoken about this and we decided to forge ahead.
“Joey has had three training opportunities to slot in there, as it did for John Ryan and Rob Herring in a similar vein.
“It’s a good opportunity for some of those people to put their hands up.”
Carbery last week announced that he would be leaving Leinster to join provincial rivals Munster and has only started two of his previous 10 caps, against the United States and Fiji.
In all, Ireland have made six changes to the side which beat England in March to seal Grand Slam success.
Robbie Henshaw comes in for centre Garry Ringrose in the only other change to the backline, while there is a new front row of Ryan, Herring and Jack McGrath.
Jordi Murphy joins the back row from where Peter O’Mahony will lead the side in the absence of injured hooker Rory Best.
Ireland have won three of their last four Tests against Australia, but lost 22-15 on their last visit to Brisbane in 2010.