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Ireland's youthful squad can deliver against Eagles

 

By Robert Jones

Ireland captain Rhys Ruddock has backed his young side to come firing out of the blocks against the United States at Red Bull Arena on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt has selected a youthful 23-man squad to take on the Eagles, who are ranked 17th in the world - 13 places below the Irish.

Temperatures in New Jersey come kick-off time are expected to be in the high 20s with Ireland looking to impose their high-tempo game-plan on the home side.

Despite the nature of the opposition, Ireland blindside Ruddock insists the same level of intensity and preparation has been present in training over the past few weeks.

"Nothing has changed," said Ruddock following Ireland's captain's run in New Jersey.

"No matter where we're playing or who we're playing against, the fact that we're in a different country, we've managed to prepare in the same way.

"Our week has been pretty much the same despite the travel. We've had a really good week of training. The intensity had to be high to get used to the conditions and make sure that we know what to expect."

Exciting young Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale has been handed a first Test start while there are four potential debutants on the Irish bench in the form of Dave Heffernan, Andrew Porter, James Ryan and Rory Scannell.

And Ruddock, who has won 13 caps for his country, has backed Ireland's young guns to deliver.

"I've been really impressed," he said.

"Even the guys that aren't in the squad this week have had that edge and that intensity that you would expect which has allowed us to prepare even better.

"We've spoken about having a competitive squad and a competitive environment. Everyone is striving to make the squad even better and we certainly had that, and I've been really impressed with some of the guys that haven't been involved, who are hoping to be involved later in the tour.

"For the guys that are involved tomorrow making those first caps, hopefully it's a special day for them.

"The way they've trained, they look every bit ready so I'm looking forward to seeing them out there."

With Rory Best, Peter O'Mahony and Conor Murray away on Lions duty in New Zealand, Schmidt has looked to Ruddock to fill the captaincy void for Ireland's summer tour this month.

The powerful backrower will be leading his country for the first time, after some impressive outings for Ireland during last summer's three-Test series in South Africa, but is relishing the challenge.

"My focus has been on delivering what's expected in terms of the actions, how you train, how you recover, and all that sort of stuff. I'm just trying to set the example there," added the 26-year-old.

"If there's ever a time where any of the more experienced guys like myself can offer words of advice or bring people along with you, that's been done," he said.

"There's lot of leaders within the group who have stepped up and done that job throughout the last two weeks leading into the game now."

Belfast Telegraph

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