Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony has challenged Joey Carbery and the other new faces in his team to seize their opportunity on the eve of their first Test against Australia in Brisbane.
The Munster flanker skippers his country for the fourth time at Suncorp Stadium as they look to build on their Grand Slam success in the spring.
Joe Schmidt has made six changes to the team that beat England to secure that success in March with Carbery starting at fly-half ahead of Johnny Sexton, who is on the bench, while Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, John Ryan, Jordi Murphy and Robbie Henshaw come into the side.
There is plenty of focus on 22-year-old Carbery, who last week confirmed that he would be moving from Leinster to Munster next season.
O’Mahony has encouraged all of the players who have come into the side to rise to the challenge.
“We talk about guys being able to slot in and of building a squad and guys having to take their opportunities. These are the opportunities that you can’t let pass you by,” the Corkman said.
“This is the standard of rugby that you want to be playing at and with the squad that we’ve built, certainly over the last two or three years, we always say that guys should slot in seamlessly and that’s the way we run things.”
O’Mahony, who captained the Lions in the first Test against New Zealand last year, has been impressed with the way Carbery has responded to his surprise inclusion.
“It’s been great. He’s an incredible footballer,” he said.
“He’s really grown into that leadership role. I suppose over the past two years he’s been getting better and better and he’s a big character in the squad, which you need from your 10.
“I think he’s growing all the time and it’s a huge opportunity for him tomorrow.”
Australia are determined to begin their season by taking a 1-0 lead in the series and coach Michael Cheika has brought David Pocock back into the team after his hiatus last year.
Reds pair Caleb Timu and Brandon Paenga-Amosa will make their debuts in Brisbane, while Crusaders flanker Pete Samu is likely to join them off the bench.
Captain Michael Hooper has called on his team to bring a positive approach to the clash.
“We’d be silly not to run the ball with some of the strike power we’ve got,” he said.
“We’ve got a really fit team - forwards who want to work and get over the advantage-line.
“We’ve a mobile back row and we’ve seen during the Super rugby season some of the damage that the backs can do and some of the form that our play-makers are in.
“We’ve got to be smart in how we do it.
“Some of this stuff needs a little bit of a tweak sometimes in how we relieve pressure at times because we know that the Irish are good - they build pressure.
“We saw what they did to some teams in the Six Nations, how they can put up a kick anywhere on the field and keep putting pressure on you so how we deal with that is critical.”