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Reserves give Ireland coach Joe Schmidt food for thought

Ireland 52 Canada 21

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 14/11/2016

Try alert: Ireland’s Luke Marshall scores his side’s second try despite the challenge from Gordon McRorie
Try alert: Ireland’s Luke Marshall scores his side’s second try despite the challenge from Gordon McRorie

Tries and debutants arrived with equal frequency in Dublin on Saturday night with Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt admitting that those who saw off Canada have given him a selection headache ahead of this weekend's tantalising rematch with the All Blacks.

The hosts crossed the whitewash eight times with a largely second string side and, while Canada were game and scored three of their own, it was the type of test that will be remembered best for Schmidt's blooding of a host of new caps.

Of those experiencing international rugby for the first time, Garry Ringrose was the most impressive, but it was the men with prior outings in green that will be pressing for inclusion when the World champions pitch up in Dublin on Saturday.

Lock Ultan Dillane, making his first start, was superb and rewarded with a first international score and the man-of-the-match award, while his Connacht team-mate Tiernan O'Halloran crossed twice from full-back in a strong outing.

Those too hoping to prove their fitness and form after long absences, namely Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony and Cian Healy, were also prominent.

"Back row, back three, even front row; there's some tough decisions," said Schmidt as he already began looking ahead to a second tussle this month with the nation of his birth who Ireland beat for a first time in Chicago.

"I think we'll get together and sort those out and (when we) announce the squad on Thursday it will have been really, really closely looked at.

"Hopefully, it will be the right squad to give the All Blacks another really good game."

Of the Ulstermen on show, Paddy Jackson, who displayed a nice passing touch and was perfect off the tee, was pick of the bunch while it was Luke Marshall who got the scoresheet with the side's second try.

After Keith Earls had gotten Ireland off to the perfect start, the Munster wing showed great feet again to create space and Marshall finished strongly.

That would be the highpoint for the Ulster centre who had a pass picked off by Scarlets wing DTH van der Merwe to give the points straight back soon after.

When Agen wing Taylor Paris, one of those from the top European leagues representing Canada who were without Jamie Cudmore, Tyler Ardron and Jeff Hassler, was the beneficiary of a rolling maul, the scores were improbably tied.

O'Halloran's first meant Ireland at least led at the turn and a penalty try shortly into the second half put the overwhelming favourites in control.

After that impressive scrum John Ryan was the first of the five uncapped replacements to enter the fray as he took the place of Finlay Bealham. The Australian Bealham, Irish-qualified thanks to an Enniskillen-born grandmother, was excellent again having impressed off the bench against New Zealand.

After years of dependence on John Hayes and then Mike Ross, Irish tight-head stocks certainly seem deeper than in recent memory.

A score for Matt Evans briefly made it a seven-point game again but Ireland would produce four tries in the final quarter - Dillane, Kieran Marmion, O'Halloran and debutant hooker James Tracy all crossed - to ensure a greater points tally than the pair's last meeting at the World Cup.

Schmidt will readily admit that bigger challenges await.

And indeed arguably the biggest of them all will come next week when a fired-up New Zealand arrive in Dublin seeking revenge.

If their 10-try demolition of Italy on Saturday is anything to go by, the world champions have not forgotten about their first defeat since August 2015.

"I think they'll come full-strength, fully loaded," said Schmidt of the All Blacks.

"Maybe we surprised them a little bit because while a lot of people were referencing 2013, we didn't have that many starters that were the same as 2013 and they had a lot of changes as well.

"So three years on, it is difficult to use that as a reference point. This time, it was only seven days ago so there's a very close reference point. They can go back and look at that.

"They will look at us now after their Italy game and they'll have a really good plan. I think they are incredibly well coached, I think they are incredibly well prepared physically."

IRELAND: T O'Halloran; C Gilroy (N Adeolokun, 67), G Ringrose, L Marshall, K Earls; P Jackson (J Carbery, 68), K Marmion (McGrath, 67); C Healy (D Kilcoyne, 58), S Cronin (J Tracy, 61), F Bealham (J Ryan, 48); U Dillane (D Ryan, 73), B Holland; P O'Mahony (capt), S O'Brien (D Leavy, 68), J O'Donoghue.

CANADA: M Evans; DTH van der Merwe, C Trainor, C Hearn (N Blevins, 68), T Paris; C Braid, G McRorie (P Mack, 70); D Sears-Duru (R Brouwer, 70), R Barkwill (E Houward, 75), J Ilnicki (M Tierney, 79); B Beukboom, E Olmstead; K Baillie, L Rumball (M Heaton, 67), Aaron Carpenter (capt) (A Cejvanovic, 46).

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