By Nick Purewall
Will Addison has moved a step closer to his Test debut by being named in an unfamiliar 26-man Ireland squad to face Italy.
Former England Under-20s star Addison could now well make his senior international bow in the clash at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Saturday.
Head coach Joe Schmidt has opted to hold back the likes of captain Rory Best and vice-captains Johnny Sexton and Peter O’Mahony, with Argentina, New Zealand and the USA all still to face in Dublin.
British and Irish Lions forwards Iain Henderson and Sean O’Brien and full-back Rob Kearney have also been left out of the squad to travel to Chicago, with boss Schmidt keeping a clutch of stellar names fresh for the three Dublin encounters.
Leinster playmaker Ross Byrne has also edged closer to his Test bow in making the Chicago squad, with Joey Carbery possibly pencilled in to start at fly-half.
Addison left Sale for Ulster in the summer and has since earned rave reviews for a string of fine performances with the Belfast province.
Now the 26-year-old — who qualifies for Ireland through his mother — can push for his first Test cap, when Ireland take on Conor O’Shea’s Italy in America.
Schmidt’s decision to keep some senior players fresh for the Dublin encounters also means Ireland will have a new face as captain this weekend.
Meanwhile Argentina will be playing three tests in Europe in November but the resurgent Pumas, coming off their best ever Rugby Championship campaign, are focused solely on their opener against Ireland.
Coach Mario Ledesma, who guided Argentina to two wins in the Championship for the first time since they joined the southern hemisphere’s elite in 2012, is expecting “intensity, intensity, intensity,” from Joe Schmidt’s side in Dublin on Nov. 10.
“They are a team that can compete mano a mano,” he said of the Irish, who are ranked second in the world, seven places ahead of the Pumas.
Ireland halted New Zealand’s 18-match winning streak in Chicago two years ago and brought to an end a similar run from England to deprive their rivals of a Grand Slam in 2017.
They have lost only two of their 14 tests since that victory over England, are the current Six Nations champions, and beat Australia in a test series in June. Argentina beat an injury-depleted Ireland in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup but lost 28–19 on a freezing day in Dublin last year, going 20-0 down before launching a spirited fightback that ultimately came up short.
Argentina also play tests against France in Lille on Nov. 17 and Scotland at Murrayfield on Nov. 24, before playing the Barbarians at Twickenham on Dec. 1, when they head north after a bittersweet Rugby Championship.
After recording victories over South Africa and Australia, they blew a chance to make it three wins out of six with a disastrous second-half performance in their final match against the Wallabies.
Ahead 31-7 at halftime, the Pumas lost 45-34 after what was the second-biggest collapse in international rugby history. One of the changes following that defeat will take effect on the November tour after Ledesma appointed Pablo Matera as captain in place of Agustin Creevy.
Ledesma, in his first season in charge, said the change was no reflection on the 33-year-old Creevy and stressed that the hooker would keep his place in the team.
“We wanted a new voice, more in tune with the way we work and it seems to me that Pablo is the best leader to take us where we want to go,” Ledesma said.
Forwards: F Bealham (Connacht), T Beirne (Munster) J Conan, S Cronin, T Furlong (all Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), J McGrath (Leinster), J Murphy (Ulster), A Porter (Leinster), Q Roux (Connacht), R Ruddock, James Ryan (both Leinster), N Scannell (Munster), D Toner, J van der Flier (both Leinster).
Backs: W Addison (Ulster), B Aki (Connacht), R Byrne (Leinster), J Carbery, A Conway (both Munster), J Cooney (Ulster), J Larmour, L McGrath, G Ringrose (all Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster), D Sweetnam (Munster).