Ireland’s summer tour: the players to watch out for

Daniel Barnes
07 June 2018

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Can Ireland build on their domineering Six Nations success and construct the momentum to challenge for next year’s Rugby World Cup?

Guinness PRO14. Ireland, Australia, James Ryan, Jacob Stockdale, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan

We might just receive a few hints that help to begin answering that burning question when Joe Schmidt’s troops lock horns with Australia in a three-Test series this month.

Ireland’s 32-man touring party is made up entirely of stars that ply their trade in the Guinness PRO14 and ahead of tomorrow’s first Test in Brisbane, we’ve taken a look at some of the players to keep an eye on this summer.

Jacob Stockdale – Ulster Rugby

The undoubted star of the show during this year’s Six Nations, can Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale continue his spectacular form in a green jersey?

The 21-year-old thrilled and delighted in equal measure as Ireland won the Grand Slam earlier this year, topping the try-scoring charts while also picking up the Player of the Championship award.

He bagged a record seven tries, scoring in wins against England, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

Australia will no doubt be wary of the threat posed by the Ulster flyer but, put simply, will they fare any better than Ireland’s conquered Six Nations opponents when it comes to stopping him?

James Ryan – Leinster Rugby

Winning has become a habit for young Leinster lock James Ryan, one that he’s not looking to break anytime soon.

The 21-year-old has come out on the winning side in the 23 senior games he has played in, a record that includes appearances for both Ireland and Leinster – Ryan helped his country win the Six Nations and his province defeat Scarlets in last month’s Guinness PRO14 Final.

Head coach Schmidt has already talked up Ryan’s ability to make an impact in Test rugby and few would bet against the Leinsterman from living up that billing as he prepares to tussle with the Wallabies’ front row.

He starts in the first Test at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

Tadhg Beirne – Scarlets

Unlike Stockdale and Ryan, Tadhg Beirne hasn’t been named in Ireland’s matchday 23 for Saturday’s first Test.

This means that the 26-year-old’s lengthy wait to make his Ireland bow continues – but don’t bet against him getting the nod from chief Schmidt later in the series.

After two impressive seasons with the Scarlets, during which he helped the Welsh outfit to back-to-back Guinness PRO14 Finals, Beirne is now eligible for Irish selection, having agreed to join Munster next season.

The lock of back row produced 39 turnovers in the Guinness PRO14 this term, 17 more than his nearest challenger, Cardiff Blues’ Nick Williams, and is ready to fire at international level.

Ross Byrne – Leinster Rugby

Along with Beirne, fly-half Ross Byrne heads into this Test series as a previously uncapped player.

Having played his part in Leinster’s successful conclusion to the season, which included both Guinness PRO14 and European Rugby Champions Cup triumphs, the 23-year-old has been rested for Saturday’s opening Test showdown.

When his opportunity likely arrives, Byrne, who kicked 116 points for Leinster this season, will be looking to demonstrate that he has the talent to challenge fellow Guinness PRO14 champions Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery for the Irish No.10 shirt.

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