PROVINCIAL: Inter-Pro pre-season friendly holds huge importance

Craig Gilroy
Craig Gilroy

The Ireland coaching staff will be at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night to run their eye over two Rugby World Cup hopefuls.

Ulster and Leinster get their new season’s underway as the countdown to the start of the Guinness PRO12 on September 4 builds momentum.

Although it is only a friendly for Ulster winger, Craig Gilroy and Leinster prop, Marty Moore, there is additional pressure as both could still make a case for selection to Joe Schmidt’s final 31-man squad for next month’s World Cup.

Moore has been progressing from a shoulder injury and would still come into the mix given the situation with team mate Cian Healy’s recovery from neck surgery.

Gilroy was selected as part of the initial 45-man squad but has not been involved in either of the two warm-up games against Wales or Scotland and he will want to keep himself in Schmidt’s mind with a big showing against Leinster.

It will also be a night when Ulster’s new talent coming through the ranks will get the chance to show if they are ready to step up to the plate.

Ulster will be missing several key players until November due to the World Cup and young talents like Jacob Stockdale, Sam Arnold and Frank Taggart will have the spotlight turned on them.

Ulster fans will also get the chance to see new summer signings, Sam Windsor, Peter Browne, and Paul Rowley.

Ulster head coach, Neil Doak, said it was the plan to give an many of the available squad and opportunity and as such it would be a case of fielding two different teams giving players 40 minutes each.

“Everyone has probably had enough of pre-season training, conditioning and preparation they want to get a hit out. It is the right time.

“We have the PRO12 starting in just over two weeks time and the next two weeks against Leinster and Edinburgh will give let the coaching staff see where we are. It gives us the chance to see the young players in an uncontrolled environment and how they react to certain things.

“It is also lets us see what they have taken on board over the past few weeks.”

After Leinster’s visit this week, Ulster go to Edinburgh before opening their Guinness PRO12 campaign at home against Ospreys, on September 4 before going to Scarlets on September 12.

The disjointed start to the season due to the World Cup will see Ulster then play one game in four weeks.