By John Fallon in New Jersey
Ireland have settled in to their team base in New Jersey ahead of Saturday’s clash with the USA when Joe Schmidt’s men will aim to extend their eight-match winning sequence against the Eagles.
And having lost Tommy O’Donnell to injury before they departed and with eleven players away on Lions duty, it was with some relief that the Irish squad departed on Monday from Dublin without any further changes required.
Forwards coach Simon Easterby said that their return to US soil for the first time since that unforgettable win over the All Blacks in Chicago in November presents a great opportunity for many emerging players.
Easterby said: “We have good memories of being in the States in November. This time around with a different group of players. A lot of excitement with some of the youngsters that are involved for the first time.
“It’s a great place to be in, we are in a great location, and we are looking forward to what will be a great test and challenge for the lads on the weekend."
The main squad contains eight uncapped players, including three — Andrew Porter, James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale — who were playing at the U-20 World Championship a year ago.
They will be hoping, along with John Cooney, Dave Heffernan, Rory O’Loughlin, Rory Scannell and Kieran Treadwell, to make their Irish debut on this tour, with the squad moving to Japan on Sunday for two Tests after this encounter.
Ulster’s Sean Reidy, drafted in to replace the injured O’Donnell, will bring the squad back up to 31 when he joins up with them in Japan next Monday.
“There is a bit of inexperience. But there is the experience of Cian Healy and Devin Toner particularly in the forwards,” added Easterby.
“These tours were probably ear-marked for a bit of that inexperience to come through and build our depth. We are two years out from a World Cup.
“This is a great starting point for a lot of these young players to get an opportunity to spend time with them.
"To invest some time in them but to get to know each other as well and see how they perform under a bit of pressure. A bit more pressure than some of them are used to.”