Horgan can show he has a lot to offer
With South Africa taking on France in a Toulousian bear-pit tonight, Ireland's crucial soccer play-off with France tomorrow and Ireland senior rugby squad taking a run at Australia on Sunday, Ireland's 'A' clash with Tonga has slipped under the radar.
But tonight's Ravenhill clash (7pm) and the second string side's meeting with Argentina 'A' in Tallaght on November 27 form an integral part of Declan Kidney's grand plan, looking ahead to World Cup 2011.
After the Churchill Cup success last summer, this represents another opportunity to look at what's coming through as well as keeping back-up players ticking over in case they are needed for a senior call-up.
One of those is rejuvenated right wing and tonight's captain, Shane Horgan, who came in for special mention from Kidney this week.
“Shane's contribution to the Grand Slam is one of those hidden ingredients, along with a few other fellahs, the way they came into training and fed into what we were trying to do,” said Kidney. “I think Shane's form after the Six Nations for Leinster was exceptional and he's carried that into this season. Shane captained Ireland against the Barbarians (last year) and did a good job there so we felt he was deserving of the honour.”
As much as the experience of Horgan, full-back Gavin Duffy and scrum-half Peter Stringer there is plenty of youthful promise on show also, typified by the centre combination of Fergus McFadden and Darren Cave.
Ian Humphreys will be looking to nail down the third Irish out-half slot on familiar turf and Ireland bring a solid front-row and mobile back-row into this clash.
The second-row partnership of Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner is particularly interesting.
Neither lock has enjoyed much recent game-time for Munster or Leinster respectively, but there is a good balance between the two.
The South Sea islanders will be ultra-physical and blindside flanker Seti Filo is a big player for them while much is expected of the right winger with the enormous name Latu Nagashima Alipate Fatafehi.
IRELAND 'A': G Duffy; S Horgan (capt), D Cave, F McFadden, A Trimble; I Humphreys, P Stringer; B Wilkinson, J Fogarty, M Ross; D Ryan, D Toner; N Best, S O'Brien, C Henry. Reps: D Fogarty, B Young, D Tuohy, K McLaughlin, I Boss, I Keatley, J Murphy.
TONGA: V Filimone Lilo; L Fatafehi, S Hufanga, J Vaka, P Vakaloa; K Morath, K Fangupo; T Toke, S Telefoni, M Moala; K Hehea, E Kauhenga; S Filo, U Fono, S Vahafolau. Reps: W Hafu, P Taula, P Fakalelu, L Faaoso, R Mahe, M Fangupo, R Hola, M Ahota'e'iloa.