Leinster’s inexperienced fly-half Joey Carbery could make his Test debut when Ireland attempt to stop New Zealand extending their record match-winning streak in Chicago on Saturday (8pm Irish time).
Carbery has just nine senior Leinster appearances to his name and turns 21 on November 1, but could now take a seat on Ireland’s bench for Saturday’s autumn Test opener against the double world champions.
Ulster’s Paddy Jackson will miss the USA trip due to personal reasons, leaving prodigious talent Carbery the most likely understudy to Johnny Sexton.
Ireland must also bid to deny New Zealand a 19th consecutive victory without influential forwards Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson and Peter O’Mahony.
“Players returning to full fitness Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson and Peter O’Mahony along with Paddy Jackson, unavailable due to personal reasons, will not make the trip to Chicago,” the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed.
Sexton should start Saturday’s Soldier Field clash, with Leinster team-mate Carbery now likely to take a seat on the bench in Ulster playmaker Jackson’s absence.
Carbery has been promoted to Ireland’s senior squad for the autumn series ahead of Ian Madigan, now plying his trade in Bordeaux.
Leinster flanker O’Brien has only just returned from long-term hamstring trouble, and has been deemed not quite ready for Test rugby.
Peter O’Mahony has recently beaten the knee ligament problem that ended his World Cup 2015 campaign prematurely in the 24-9 pool stage victory over France.
As with O’Brien, Ireland are taking few risks with the Munster captain in the hope the 27-year-old can be at full tilt by the time New Zealand pitch up in Dublin. Josh van der Flier hopes to come into the reckoning for the clash with the world champions.
The Leinster star said: “I’ll try to do as well as I can in training and then it’s up to the coach who he selects.
“I’ll prepare as well as possible. It’s massive, as big a game as they come really.
“It’s really what sets the benchmark, they [and Australia] are the best teams in the world, you want to be playing them as often as you can.”
And CJ Stander hopes an influx of Irish fans can make Soldier Field a home away from home this weekend.
“I hear there’s a lot of Irish support there and a lot of tickets sold to Irish supporters. I think it’s a great challenge, we are excited for the challenge. We know what we can do as a group, what we’ve worked on and what we can improve on.
“If you challenge yourself against the best in the world, what more do you want?”
IRELAND’S 27-man squad v NZ in Chicago:
F Bealham (Connacht), R Best (capt), J Carbery, S Cronin (both Leinster), U Dillane (Connacht), T Furlong (Leinster), C Gilroy (Ulster) C Healy, J Heaslip, R Henshaw (all Leinster), B Holland (Munster), R Kearney (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), J McGrath, L McGrath, J Murphy (all Leinster), C Murray (Munster), J Payne (Ulster), G Ringrose (Leinster), D Ryan, J Ryan (both Munster), J Sexton (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster), D Toner (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), J Van der Flier (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster)
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