Farrell to spring last minute Emerging Ireland tour to SA - report
It is being reported that head coach Andy Farrell is set to bring an Emerging Ireland team for a last-minute tour of South Africa this September.
The Irish Independent’s Brendan Fanning reports that a squad of roughly 30 players will contest three games against non-URC teams across the course of three games against the likes of the Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas.
Farrell is apparently keen to expose players to more game time in an Irish national squad environment after being said to be pleased by the learnings garnered during the recent Ireland trip to New Zealand.
Ireland fielded a midweek side against the New Zealand Maori in July – losing the first game and winning the second – and it is quite likely that the touring squad for South Africa will closely resemble that team. That means the likes of Craig Casey, Ciaran Frawley, Jimmy O’Brien, Jeremy Loughman, Dave Heffernan, Tom Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Joe McCarthy, Cian Prendergast, Nick Timoney and Gavin Coombes could all be involved.
It might not be news that is widely welcomed by URC organisers. The players involved are likely to miss URC Rounds 2 through to 4 as a result of the late tour and could leave the Irish provinces significantly undermanned as a result.
Given that senior internationals that participated in summer tours are not typically fed back into provincial squad selection at the start of the URC, it means that the four provinces could be forced into fielding some relatively callow teams in the opening rounds.
Should the report be accurate, the logic of playing an Emerging Ireland team against second-flight South African sides instead of packing down against URC opposition is not immediately clear.
If the games are played during URC 2, 3 and 4, Leinster players will miss a derby game against Ulster, as well as fixtures with Benetton and the highly rated Sharks.
Munster players will miss two fixtures against the Dragons, Zebre and a derby make with Connacht, while Connacht will miss the aforementioned derby with Munster as well as fixtures with Edinburgh and URC champions the Stormers.
Ulster for their part will miss a derby with Leinster, as well as Ospreys and Scarlets.
A frequent criticism of the league has been that the Irish provinces in particular have been reluctant to play their best teams. The optics of this tour certainly don’t help that perception.
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