‘Quality’ A-team set for Aussies

THE strength in depth of Irish rugby will be put to the test at Thomond Park tonight (7.30) when Michael Bradley’s Ireland A squad go into action against Australia A.

Although Bradley wasn’t party to the selection of this side, he is excited at the potential, though he noted that Australia, with 12 full internationals, would be more experienced.

“I’m satisfied that this squad is a quality one and the players won’t need much motivation from me, especially given the year that’s in it,” said Bradley, referring to the fact that places at the World Cup are up for grabs.

He is happy to play a part in the collective development, stressing his job was not particularly hard: “When you’re dealing with quality players who know what they’re all about, then it’s easy to allow them get on with working the system as they would have known. There’s no need to complicate matters,” he said.

Bradley admitted that it was exciting to see players like Luke Fitzgerald coming through the system. “He was highly rated at schools level; he’s only just out of school, but it’s good to see players of his vintage, and you’ve guys like Cillian Willis as well, Tommy Bowe, who’s injured, come through.

Assistant coach Allan Clarke said Irish rugby had come on in leaps and bounds these last three years. “The preparation, the analysis, the physical side of it and the skill is so much better; you would rarely go into a game nowadays not knowing the patterns of the opposition and without having a plan to combat them. If you’ve got the type of quality player you need on board as well – as I think we have in Ireland now – then that makes the job of winning and being competitive all so much easier.”

This Irish A side will be led by Simon Best, who regards the game as a personal chance.

“It’s really an opportunity for everyone in the squad; it’s just over nine months to the World Cup, and opportunities like this are going to become fewer and fewer,” he said.

It’s also an opportunity for Eoin Reddan to fight his way back into the senior squad. Reddan had to withdraw from the Irish squad for their summer tour to the southern hemisphere and right now faces a battle to dislodge Isaac Boss from the back up scrum half position.

IRELAND A: L. Fitzgerald, R. Kearney, B. Murphy, K. Lewis, J. Kelly, J. Staunton, E. Reddan, S. Best (captain), J. Fogarty, R. McCormack, T. Hogan, M. McCullough, S. Ferris, J. Heaslip, K. Gleeson.

Replacements. J. Blaney, R. Hogan, M. O’Driscoll, R. Wilson, C. Willis, M. McHugh, G. Duffy.

AUSTRALIA A: C. Shepherd, A. A. Cooper, M. Turinui, S. Staniforth, D. Mitchell, M. Gerrard, B. Sheehan, B. Robinson, T. McIsaac, R. Blake/N. Henderson, A. Campbell (captain), J. Horwill, S. Fava, S. Hoiles, D. Lyons.

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