Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has admitted Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery face “baptism of fire” Test debuts against back-to-back world champions New Zealand.
Leinster’s Ringrose and Carbery are primed for potentially the most challenging international bow, with both expected to come off the bench in Saturday’s Chicago clash with the All Blacks.
Centre Ringrose and fly-half Carbery boast just 38 Leinster appearances between them, with head coach Schmidt hoping Ireland are not left “chasing shadows” against Steven Hansen’s record-breaking side.
“It’s a bit of a baptism of fire; it’s probably not ideal,” said Schmidt, of the impending high-pressure debuts for Ringrose and Carbery.
“It’s a little bit daunting for them but it’s a great opportunity for them to learn.
“When they get out there I’ve no doubt the pace of the game will be pretty sharp.
“Those two youngsters, they can run all day and hopefully we’re not chasing shadows.
“Hopefully they can get a shot with the ball and demonstrate a little bit of the talent we’ve seen in them.
“It would have been nice probably to have them in a Test match that was slightly less daunting, but they’ve been quite refreshing in how enthusiastic they’ve been, they’ve haven’t shown signs of being intimidated by the task.”
Meanwhile, Scott and Beauden Barrett could become the 45th set of All Blacks brothers in Chicago on Saturday, where Jerome Kaino will make his first Test start at lock.
Flanker Kaino will start in the second row in New Zealand’s clash against Ireland, partnering Patrick Tuipulotu in the All Blacks’ engine room.
Injuries to stellar lock pairing Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock have forced New Zealand to rejig their resources, with 22-year-old Scott Barrett in line for his All Blacks debut off the bench.
Beauden Barrett will start at fly-half to win his 47th cap, with Aaron Smith returning at scrum-half following his suspension for the tryst with a woman in a Christchurch airport toilet cubicle last month.
“We want to congratulate Scott on being selected in the match day 23 for the first time,” said All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen of Scott Barrett’s selection.
“It will be special day for him and the entire Barrett family, including his two brothers who are touring with him.
“Returning to Chicago for only the second time in our history has, once again, been a great experience. The team have embraced the sporting atmosphere and the culture of the city and we really appreciate the way we’ve been looked after by the people of Chicago.
“As far as our preparation for Saturday has gone, we have knuckled down and done some great work throughout the week.”
IRELAND: R Kearney (Leinster), A Trimble, J Payne (both Ulster), R Henshaw (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster), J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray, J McGrath (both Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong, D Toner (both Leinster), D Ryan, CJ Stander (both Munster), J Murphy, J Heaslip (both Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy (both Leinster), F Bealham, U Dillane (both Connacht), J Van der Flier (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), J Carbery, G Ringrose (both Leinster).
NEW ZEALAND: B Smith, W Naholo (both Highlanders), G Moala (Blues), R Crotty (Crusaders), J Savea, B Barrett (both Hurricanes), A Smith (Highlanders), J Moody (Crusaders), D Coles (Hurricanes), O Franks (Crusaders), P Tuipulotu, J Kaino (both Blues), L Squire (Highlanders), S Cane (Chiefs), Kieran Read (Crusaders, capt).
Replacements C Taylor (Crusaders), O Tu’ungafasi, C Faumuina (both Blues), S Barrett (Crusaders), A Savea, TJ Perenara (both Hurricanes), A Cruden (Chiefs), M Fekitoa (Highlanders).