Max Deegan to captain Emerging Ireland in tour opener against Griquas

Jack Crowley and Nathan Doak will make up the half-back pairing.
Max Deegan to captain Emerging Ireland in tour opener against Griquas

NEW DUTIES: Max Deegan. ©INPHO/Evan Treacy

John Fogarty is hoping that a young Emerging Ireland team can reproduce an impressive week’s preparation on the park in Bloemfontein against the Griquas in what will be the first of three games on tour.

The squad only came together last Friday week and, since arriving in South Africa on Sunday, they have been adapting to the altitude, temperatures that are touching 30 degrees, and the need to find one voice in such a short space of time.

Simon Easterby, who is leading the squad in the absence of Andy Farrell, is helped in that last sense by the fact that his matchday squad consists of players from just three of the four provinces with Munster the bulk supplier in the form of ten players, Leinster providing seven and another half-dozen from Ulster.

Leinster’s Max Deegan will captain the side from the back row but he is just one among a leadership group that also includes Scott Penny, Joe McCarthy, Jack Crowley, Nathan Doak and Connacht’s Cian Prendergast who will not feature first up.

Deegan, Rob Balacoune and Shane Daly bring a small amount of Test experience to the table while Jack Crowley and Nathan Doak will make up the half-back pairing. The starting XV is split evenly between players from Munster, Leinster and Ulster and there are other connections from time spent in Ireland underage squads.

“It’s a great team,” said assistant coach John Fogarty. “There is loads of excitement. There is a huge amount of energy from the group. It’s been a short prep. We have been blown away by their willingness to communicate. Sometimes you get a group in that’s quiet and you are trying to break down those barriers but this group was quite familiar with each other.

“They would have played with each other underage. There are some connections with each other across the pitch that are very familiar. There has been great energy and enthusiasm so it will be great to see how we go. There is certainly a little bit of the unknown but from what we have been over the last few days we will be excited to see this group.” That unknown encompasses the opposition, one of the weaker South African sides and yet an outfit that made the final of the last Currie Cup, but Fogarty stressed that the bulk of their focus would be on what Ireland can put together. What the opposition bring, or what the end result will be, are secondary.

That would change, of course, if the Griquas were to pull off a victory.

“We went after some of the habits that are needed to make our game happen. Really subtle small things like being nice and square, being able to stay square and see the pass. Little small things that make our game tick on both sides of the ball. Sometimes less is more. There is familiarity within the group.

“We didn’t overload them (in terms of information). Some small habitual changes that we would like to see at the weekend. It won’t be perfect. Our ability to stay nice and calm when it is not perfect is going to be tested for sure. We need to see a little bit of leadership out there.” 

Ireland (v Griquas): S Daly; C Nash, J Osborne, S Moore, R Balacoune; J Crowley, N Doak; J Wycherley, T Stewart, T Clarkson; J McCarthy, T Ahern; D McCann, S Penny, M Deegan.

Replacements: D Barron, M Milne, R Salanoa, B Deeny, J Hodnett, M McDonald, J Flannery, A Frisch.

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