picks out three players who put their hands up...
This game was not just about laying foundations for next year’s World Cup, it was an opportunity for players to stake their claims to consideration for this month’s Guinness Series blockbusters against Argentina and New Zealand. Jordan Larmour will undoubtedly top that list, particularly with first-choice full-back Rob Kearney a doubt to face Argentina this Saturday at the Aviva. Here are three more who advanced their cause in Chicago.
The Munster lock has hit the ground running in Test rugby following two appearances off the bench in the series win over the Wallabies during the summer. This first start in Chicago was another huge stride forward for Beirne, who opened the scoring in both halves with his first Test tries that showcased his talent for powerful carrying and the ability to pick killer lines and punch holes in defences. Beirne has some serious competition for a starting berth, most likely alongside James Ryan, with Iain Henderson waiting patiently at home and Devin Toner reminding everyone of his enduring impact when he replaced Beirne at Soldier Field. Yet the least the Munster forward should expect is a place on the bench this month to broaden his experience against Southern Hemisphere big guns.
The No. 8 picked up where he left off in Australia, starting the third Test in Sydney and helping Ireland clinch a first series win there since 1979. Acutely aware that this game against a strong Italian pack was a rare opportunity to shine in an intense back-row selection battle, Conan had a fine game at the base of the scrum in an all-Leinster trio also including captain Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier.
He led the Ireland tackle count with 17 in an industrious 80-minute shift, and though his ball-carrying was not as much to the fore as it has been for his province, it was another impressive contribution from Conan.
With Cian Healy enjoying a career renaissance and 2017 British & Irish Lion Jack McGrath as dependable as ever, breaking up the Leinster loosehead tag team is a huge challenge. Yet in his 30 minutes off the bench, replacing McGrath, at Soldier Field, Munster prop Kilcoyne could have done little more to stake his claim for inclusion over the next couple of weekends in Dublin.
He was aggressive in the scrum, contributing to the huge shove that earned a penalty from which the Irish pack drove their lineout maul over the line for the fifth try of the game and his impact in open play was just as telling. Eager for the ball, Kilcoyne made some hard yards, carrying for 20 metres and busting through tackles.