Stockdale wins debut as Schmidt backs youngsters
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has handed exciting young Ulster back Jacob Stockdale his first Test start against the United States at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey tomorrow.
Shorn of 11 frontline players away on duty with the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand, Schmidt has named a youthful line-up with a further four players poised to win their first caps from the bench.
Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan, Leinster pair Andrew Porter and James Ryan and Munster centre Rory Scannell are all set to make their international debuts having been named among the replacements.
Stockdale (21) has been in superb form for Ulster this season, scoring nine tries in the Guinness PRO12, having starred for the Ireland Under-20 side which reached the Junior World Championship final last summer.
"We think that he's someone who's got great potential and we want to see what he can bring when the pressure comes on," said Schmidt at Ireland's team base in New York.
Porter, who only made the switch from loosehead prop to tighthead in recent months, will provide cover from the bench alongside 21-year-old second row Ryan, who has yet to make a senior appearance for Leinster.
Rookie hooker Heffernan will provide explosive impact from the bench while Scannell is coming off an impressive campaign with Munster.
"I think the young guys were impressive in the (U20) World Cup," Schmidt said about the trio of Stockdale, Porter and Ryan.
"It's an opportunity to build the base and those guys can help form that with performances in the next three weeks. It really is about building the base.
"You get to learn a bit more about them when they come into camp."
Munster stalwart Simon Zebo will provide experience from the bench having suffered a couple of knocks in training this week.
Up front, Cian Healy, the most capped player in the squad with 67 appearances under his belt, is joined by Munster pair Niall Scannell and John Ryan in a powerful front row while Connacht lock Quinn Roux, who won his first cap against South Africa in Johannesburg last summer, will pack down at lock alongside Devin Toner.
Skipper Rhys Ruddock forms all all-Leinster backrow along with openside Josh van der Flier and number eight Jack Conan.
In the absence of Paddy Jackson, who remained in Ireland this week for personal reasons, Joey Carbery will start at fly-half. The Leinster number 10, who won his first cap as a replacement in Ireland's 40-29 victory over the All Blacks in Chicago, will link up with Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion.
Leinster centre Garry Ringrose and Ulster's Luke Marshall have been selected in midfield having started together in Ireland's 52-21 win against Canada at the Aviva last November.
Connacht full-back Tiernan O'Halloran has been given a chance to impress at full-back alongside Munster winger Keith Earls and the uncapped Stockdale.