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Craig Gilroy can get back on Ireland radar

By Niall Crozier

With Ulster having provided seven of the 15 players who started in last Saturday night's 29-17 Test victory over Argentina in Resistencia, there was an encouraging follow-up when the Emerging Ireland side was named.

Five Ulster-honed players are in the starting line-up for today's IRB Nations Cup opener against Russia in Bucharest (2pm), albeit that Niall Annett will be turning out for the Worcester Warriors next season.

For 23-year-old Craig Gilroy – named on the right wing – this represents a much-needed opportunity to climb back up the ladder.

In 2012-13, he could do no wrong; five starts in five Tests, four of them in the Six Nations with two tries for good measure, the first a gem against Argentina.

But in 2013-14 he played no part in any internationals, injury and a loss of form having seen him slip off the radar. This is his chance to stake a claim for a recall.

Scrum-half Paul Marshall turns 29 next month and he knows time is not on his side.

But for inside-centre Stuart McCloskey it's a different scenario. Having made his Ulster debut on February 28, the Dungannon-nurtured Hughes Academy protège has made rapid progress.

Annett is the hooker and Callum Black will be on his left side.

Ulster centurion Tom Court's departure for London Irish has provided Black with a huge opportunity.

Before exiting, Court paid the player who had been his rival for the number one jersey a huge compliment. "Over the past two years I'd say Callum has been our best player in terms of consistency," was Court's assessment.

Emerging Ireland v Russia (IRB Nations Cup, Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest, today, 2pm): Johne Murphy (Munster)*; Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Eoin Griffin (Connacht)*, Stuart McCloskey (Ulster)*, Andrew Conway (Munster)*; Ian Keatley (Munster), Paul Marshall (Ulster); Callum Black (Ulster)*, Niall Annett (Ulster)*, Michael Bent (Leinster); Mick Kearney (Connacht)*, David Foley (Munster)*; Dominic Ryan (Leinster, captain)*, Tommy O'Donnell (Munster), Robin Copeland (Cardiff Blues)*. Replacements: James Tracy (Leinster)*, John Ryan (Munster)*, Billy Holland (Munster)*, Sean Dougall (Munster)*, Luke McGrath (Leinster)*, JJ Hanrahan (Munster)*, Brendan Macken (Leinster)*

*uncapped at full-international level.

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