Munster lock Jean Kleyn has been handed a Test debut for Ireland and a chance to stake his claim for a World Cup squad berth as Joe Schmidt’s side play the first of four warm-up matches against Italy in Dublin on Saturday.
Defence coach Andy Farrell on Thursday announced the first team of Ireland’s Guinness Summer Series pre-season campaign in the continuing absence of head coach Schmidt due to a family bereavement.
It is also the day South African-born lock Kleyn, 25, qualified for Ireland under World Rugby’s residency rules having joined Munster three years ago. The Test debutant will have an experienced partner in the second row with Devin Toner set to earn his 65th cap for Ireland.
Flanker Rhys Ruddock will captain a side which mixes plenty of experience including Grand Slam starter Garry Ringrose and British & Irish Lion prop Jack McGrath with a number of fringe players in 43-man training group hoping to impress the Irish management enough to keep their hopes alive of making the final 31-man squad bound for Japan.
Joey Carbery is handed another opportunity at fly-half to cement his position as second-choice number 10 behind Johnny Sexton while his Munster team-mate Tommy O’Donnell is given his first Test appearance since the 2016 Six Nations and there is also the possibility of an Ireland debut off the bench for full-back Mike Haley.
IRELAND (to play Italy): J Larmour (Leinster); A Conway (Munster), G Ringrose (Leinster), C Farrell (Munster), D Kearney (Leinster); J Carbery (Munster), L McGrath (Leinster); J McGrath (Leinster), R Herring (Ulster), A Porter (Leinster); D Toner (Leinster), J Kleyn (Munster); R Ruddock (Leinster) - captain, T O’Donnell (Munster), J Murphy (Ulster).
Replacements: N Scannell (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), J Ryan (Munster), I Henderson (Ulster), T Beirne (Munster), K Marmion (Connacht), J Carty (Connacht), M Haley (Munster).