Emerging Ireland head coach Simon Easterby has named an entirely new starting line-up for his side’s game against the Pumas at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein tomorrow (kick-off 4pm Irish time).
Despite beginning their Toyota Challenge campaign with an emphatic 54-7 triumph over Griquas last Friday, Easterby and his backroom team are looking to explore all the options available to them on this mini-tour of South Africa.
A key figure in the Ireland U20s side that secured a Six Nations Championship Grand Slam earlier this year, the Bristol-born Chay Mullins is selected in the 15 jersey. Joining him in the back three are Ulster’s Ethan McIlroy and Andrew Smith. Both Smith and Mullins make a quick return to the southern hemisphere nation after helping the Ireland Sevens to claim a bronze medal finish at last month’s World Cup in Cape Town.
Having enjoyed a productive cameo off the bench in that encounter with Griquas, recent Munster recruit Antoine Frisch will line out alongside Cathal Forde in the Irish midfield. An U20s Grand Slam winner from 2019, Jake Flannery takes over from Jack Crowley in the number 10 shirt to form a half-back partnership with his Ulster colleague Michael McDonald.
After entering the fray with 53 minutes on the clock last Friday, Munster duo Diarmuid Barron and Roman Salanoa have been promoted to the frontrow for tomorrow’s duel against the reigning Currie Cup champions. They will be joined by loosehead prop Callum Reid, who is set to make his first appearance of the tour.
This will also be the case for towering lock Cormac Izuchukwu, while Cian Prendergast and James Culhane are also set to see action for the first time in the Ireland backrow. Izuchukwu is joined in the secondrow by former Wexford minor footballer Brian Deeny with Munster flanker John Hodnett (yet another member of that successful Ireland U20s class of 2019) completing the pack.
In the absence of Max Deegan, Connacht flanker Prendergast will lead the team out as captain. Although they haven’t been retained in the starting 15, the quintet of Josh Wycherley, Tom Ahern, Dylan McCann, Crowley and Shane Daly are all named in reserve.
Dylan Tierney-Martin, Sam Illo and Ben Murphy - son of Ireland U20s head coach Richie Murphy - are also listed amongst the replacements and can expect to be called upon for what should prove to be a much tougher test of Emerging Ireland’s resolve.
Emerging Ireland: Chay Mullins; Ethan McIlroy, Antoine Frisch, Cathal Forde, Andrew Smith; Jake Flannery, Michael McDonald; Callum Reid, Diarmuid Barron, Roman Salonoa; Cormac Izuchukwu, Brian Deeny; Cian Prendergast (capt), John Hodnett, James Culhane.
Replacements: Dylan Tierney-Martin, Josh Wycherley, Sam Illo, Tom Ahern, David McCann, Ben Murphy, Jack Crowley, Shane Daly.