Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery set for tough Ireland debut against New Zealand
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has admitted Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery face "baptism of fire" Test debuts against back-to-back world champions New Zealand.
Leinster's Ringrose and Carbery are primed for potentially the most challenging international bow, with both expected to come off the bench in Saturday's Chicago clash with the All Blacks.
Centre Ringrose and fly-half Carbery boast just 38 Leinster appearances between them, with head coach Schmidt hoping Ireland are not left "chasing shadows" against Steven Hansen's record-breaking side.
"It's a bit of a baptism of fire; it's probably not ideal," said Schmidt, of the impending high-pressure debuts for Ringrose and Carbery.
"It's a little bit daunting for them but it's a great opportunity for them to learn.
"When they get out there I've no doubt the pace of the game will be pretty sharp.
"Those two youngsters, they can run all day and hopefully we're not chasing shadows.
"Hopefully they can get a shot with the ball and demonstrate a little bit of the talent we've seen in them.
"It would have been nice probably to have them in a Test match that was slightly less daunting, but they've been quite refreshing in how enthusiastic they've been, they've haven't shown signs of being intimidated by the task."
Seasoned full-back Rob Kearney will start his first Test since February at Soldier Field, with Schmidt opting for experienced hands to counter a New Zealand side aiming to extend their record-breaking run to 19 wins.
Paddy Jackson withdrew from the USA trip for "personal reasons", with it emerging he and Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding had been arrested earlier this year over alleged sexual offences.
Both Ulster stars strenuously deny the claims, but Jackson's absence in America leaves 20-year-old Carbery deputising for Johnny Sexton.
Payne starting at 13 should avoid any injury-enforced scenario where both Ringrose and Carbery are thrown into the early stages of Saturday's clash.
Ringrose has long been viewed as Ireland's long-term successor to Brian O'Driscoll, but Schmidt has been keen not to promote the 21-year-old before time.
This time last year Carbery was lining up for Clontarf in the All-Ireland League, and now has just nine senior Leinster appearances to his name.
"There were a number of variables involved in our backline selection, including the balance of what was coming off the bench and what we had starting," said Schmidt.
"We have tried to go with a little bit of experience, just because of the magnitude of the game and the quality of the opposition, to be honest.
"That's a starting point for us, and once those younger guys do get on, that will give us an opportunity to assess them a little bit against a very, very high standard of opposition.
"At the same time it will give them an idea of what it's like to play at the very, very top level.
"Excitement at the moment is overriding the nerves for the young guys as far as having to go out and step out onto such a big stage.
"I think they are both quite natural players, the two young guys. Garry, he reads things well, he picks his moments well, he makes good decisions.
"And Joey Carbery's been very similar. Probably the thing that's been impressive about Joey is that he played pre-season games and he's played every weekend since the season's started, which again isn't ideal, particularly for such a young player in his first season.
"So we were pretty keen to give him the weekend off to be honest, but at the same time he's had such a bounce about him that he's really given us the confidence that he's ready to go."