Youthful Ireland set for Samoa challenge
November 12, 2010
Ronan O'Gara's experience will be invaluable against Samoa © Getty Images
Ireland's young guns get their chance to press for a starting berth against New Zealand when a powerful Samoa side arrives at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Declan Kidney has made 10 changes following last weekend's loss to South Africa but knows all too well that a good result is required in order to restore some faith following a difficult few months.
Samoa have travelled with a strong panel as they begin their preparations for next year's Rugby World Cup and after giving their fringe players a run in defeat to Connacht in midweek they will be all business come kick-off in Dublin.
Ireland - Player to Watch: Leinster flanker Sean O'Brien is one of a number of young prospects on the periphery of the Test side and will want to impress in his first start for Ireland. An all-action openside, he boasts good pace, a massive work-rate and a destructive game at the breakdown.
Ireland - Team News: Leinster lock Devin Toner will make his debut alongside Donncha O'Callaghan in the second-row while Tom Court, Sean Cronin and John Hayes are the new-look front-row. Denis Leamy and O'Brien join Jamie Heaslip in the loose-trio. Luke Fitzgerald shifts to fullback to accommodate Andrew Trimble on the wing and Paddy Wallace is drafted in to partner Brian O'Driscoll in midfield. Peter Stringer joins Ronan O'Gara at halfback.
Samoa - Player to Watch: The Samoans boast a high-quality backline but London Irish centre Seilala Mapusua in particular offers the perfect blend of skill with ball in hand a robust defensive game. He will relish the chance to take on Wallace and O'Driscoll.
Samoa - Team News: Taranaki hooker Mahonri Schwalger leads a side boasting nine players from the top table in England and France. Mapusua is joined in the starting line-up by club team-mate George Stowers while Zak Taulafo and David Lemi form a two-man Wasps contingent. Sale's Paul Williams starts at fullback and is joined in the back-three by Lemi and Leicester's Alesana Tuilagi. Clermont Auvergne's Tasesa Lavea starts at fly-half.
Key Battle: The Samoans have not been together for a long time and Ireland will hope for an improved showing at both the lineout and scrum. They can call on a fair amount of inexperience up front too however and if Samoa get parity then there could be some shocks in store.
Trivia: Former Richmond fly-half Earl Va'a is the only player to have featured in this fixture more than twice, playing three times between 1996 and 2003.
Stats: Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara is their highest points-scorer against Samoa with 47, including two tries, from his two Tests.
"You just need to look at their record in the World Cup - they've reached the knockout stages as often if not more often than ourselves.This will be a huge challenge and we need that to see where we are." - Ireland coach Declan Kidney.
"We're aiming for the World Cup at the moment, building up and so we're happy to have games like this. We're trying to win things, we're not here to make up the numbers." - Samoa skipper Mahonri Schwalger.
Prediction: A young Ireland side will be pushed to the limit by a good Samoa selection but should scrape through thanks to the nous possessed by O'Gara and O'Driscoll.
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