With the World Cup just less than a year away, the November Test series for the Ireland hopefuls of making the squad to Japan takes on huge importance.
While Irish head coach Joe Schmidt kept several of his senior players back in Dublin for a special training camp this week, a squad of 26 departed for Chicago ahead of tomorrow’s opening game against Italy.
That is as much to do with the physical challenges that will be presented later this month as it is providing chances to those on the Periphery.
And Schmidt has named an experimental team to face the Italians at Soldier Field, scene of Ireland historic win over New Zealand two years ago.
Uncapped players Will Addison and Ross Byrne are named on the bench and will be keen to get game time and put their name in the hat for the big Test games back in Dublin against Argentina and the All Blacks.
There is still the opportunity to feature in the final series game against USA, but tomorrow offers the best opportunity to make an early shout up.
Joey Carbery has been handed a rare start at fly-half for Ireland’s opening autumn international against Italy.
The Munster playmaker has started just three of his 12 Test appearances but has been handed the role ahead of Johnny Sexton.
Outhalf is one of the positions in the Irish set-up Schmidt wants to add strength and depth.
The other is scrumhalf and the battle is Chicago was between Ulster’s John Cooney and Leinster’s Luke McGrath - with the latter getting the nod on this occasion.
Both are impressive in their own Provinces, Cooney almost invaluable to Ulster.
It will have been a close call for Schmidt, but Leinster’s success will also have helped McGarth’s cause - and he also knows outhalf Carberry well from before.
Rhys Ruddock has been named captain of what is an exciting team for the game.
Jordan Larmour – making his first Ireland start – wins his seventh cap from fullback, with Andrew Conway on the right wing and the prolific Jacob Stockdale on the left.
Niall Scannell gets an opportunity to build on his good tour to Australia in June in the hooker position, with the experienced Jack McGrath and the explosive Andrew Porter alongside him in the front row.
Munster man Tadhg Beirne – also making his first Test start – has been named for his third cap in the second row, with Connacht’s Quinn Roux packing down beside him.
Captain Ruddock forms the back row with Leinster team mates Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan.
Addison inclusion on the bench was of no surprise, although his impressive performances for Ulster at both fullback and more recently in the middle, had some thinking there could be a starting position.
He joined Ulster from Sale Sharks over the summer, but he had already hooker up with the Ireland team for training during the summer tour of Australia - he was already on Schmidt’s radar.
Ireland: J Larmour (Leinster); A Conway (Munster), G Ringrose (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster); J Carbery (Munster), L McGrath (Leinster); J McGrath (Leinster), N Scannell (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), Q Roux (Connacht), R Ruddock (Leinster, capt), J van der Flier (Leinster), J Conan (Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), F Bealham (Connacht), D Toner (Leinster), J Murphy (Ulster), J Cooney (Ulster), R Byrne (Leinster), W Addison (Ulster).