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'Andy Farrell will not be travelling, so what I am missing here?'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Former Ireland and Lions out-half Tony Ward has questioned the value of the Emerging Ireland tour to South Africa, a three-game trip that begins minus Test team boss Andy Farrell with this Friday’s match in Bloemfontein versus the Griquas followed by fixtures against the Pumas and Cheetahs.

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Just four capped players were included in the 35-strong squad originally announced for the tour and the plan to give Ciaran Frawley, the Leinster utility who lined out at out-half for Ireland A in New Zealand recently, more time in a No10 shirt at representative level have since been scuppered by injury.

The unfolding situation has left Ward cold, the former No10 unable to get his mind around why a low-frills squad is touring in the southern hemisphere at the same time the Irish provinces are all in URC action. It’s an unease added to by how Farrell, the Ireland Test team boss, hasn’t travelled to South Africa and the team is instead being coached by Simon Easterby.

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“I cannot see the benefit in South Africa’s worst sides playing the best of the rest from all the other competing URC nations, given that a number of those ‘emerging’ players are already at that stage of development,” wrote Ward in his latest Irish Independent column.

“Andy Farrell will not be travelling, so please tell me what I am missing here? What is it that this trip will provide that Farrell will not learn in a matter of days when these same players will be called into a full international camp if they deliver at provincial level on a consistent basis?

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“Ciaran Frawley would have been the most crucial individual in this developmental squad to travel because of Ireland’s needs at out-half. The injury shipped against Benetton has ruled him out and his inability to travel is the ultimate irony. Whether it was a plan hatched over a few pints in Wellington after beating the All Blacks, the potential ramifications supersede the individual benefits that can be attained more easily here at home.”

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The Toyota Challenge was also due to feature Italy A but they have pulled out at short notice, leaving the Bulls to step in with an XV to tackle the Cheetahs on Friday after Ireland have played their opener versus the Griquas.

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