Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is planning to roll the dice in his new line-up for his side’s first World Cup warm-up match against Italy. Jean Kleyn will make his international debut while Dave Kearney returns after 2 years of being on the sidelines.
Rhys Ruddock captains the side from the back row, where he is joined by Jordi Murphy and Tommy O’Donnell. Schmidt will cut a massive 12 players from his 43-man squad before they make the trip to apan. He’s already started dropping fringe players this week by sending Ultan Dillane and Rory Scannell back to their provinces.
The selection for the Italy Test in Dublin consists largely of players who are deemed to be on the fringes of Schmidt’s strongest available squad. The inclusion of Devin Toner and Garry Ringrose, both of whom can be confident of a seat on the plane to Japan, suggests Schmidt is using the games to test out various partnerships both in the pack and in the backs.
Saturday’s game offers many of the players a crucial chance to impress, with senior figures likely to return to the side for trips to Twickenham and the Principality Stadium in the coming weeks.
Italy will be hoping to impress against a weakened Irish side, however Ireland should have enough strength in depth to handle even strong Italian team.
Prediction – Ireland win by 20 points.