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Ulster's in-form Will Addison set for Ireland debut in Chicago



Golden chance: Will Addison

Golden chance: Will Addison

Golden chance: Will Addison

Will Addison is in line to win his first Ireland cap in Saturday's Chicago clash with Italy after starring for Ulster since joining last summer.

The versatile 26-year-old, who has already shone at both full-back and centre for the province, is part of Joe Schmidt's 26-man squad which flew out to Chicago yesterday ahead of their opening Test of the four-game November series which takes in encounters at the Aviva Stadium against Argentina, the All Blacks and the USA.

Schmidt is a big admirer and it seems certain that Addison, who has played five times for Ulster, will be part of Saturday's match-day 23 to take on Conor O'Shea's Italians at Soldier Field, the scene of Ireland's famous first ever win over New Zealand two years ago.

Other Ulster players making the trip are Jacob Stockdale, John Cooney and Jordi Murphy.

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Both Addison and Murphy featured in last Friday's 36-18 PRO14 home win over the Dragons.

After arriving at Ulster from Sale Sharks, Addison has been in sparkling form for his new employers and has already scored two tries for Dan McFarland's team despite missing four games due to injury and illness.

He also stood out last weekend in Ulster's bonus-point victory over the Welsh region when a trademark dazzling break created a score for Dave Shanahan, who touched down for the second of the province's five tries.

His abilities had already been ear-marked by Schmidt, and Addison — who has made no secret of his desire to play for Ireland and make next autumn’s World Cup in Japan — even trained with the national side on their tour to Australia while visiting his sister last summer prior to hooking up with Ulster.

Regarding his involvement on Saturday, Schmidt has a number of options, with Addison’s versatility — he can also play on the wing and goal-kick — making him an even more attractive prospect.

A start at full-back could be on the agenda, or Schmidt may decide to use Addison in a potential new-look midfield partnership with Bundee Aki.

Should Schmidt play it more cautiously — perhaps a likely outcome — Addison will bench and cover centre and full-back.

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The Cumbrian-born player, who has represented England at U20 level, qualifies for Ireland through his Fermanagh mother.

Indeed, Addison’s close connections to the province, and the Lakeland County in particular, have seen him list his affiliated club as junior outfit Enniskillen.

It is also a huge weekend for Cooney, who is odds-on to bench behind Leinster’s Luke McGrath.

The 28-year-old has missed Ulster’s last two games due to a shoulder issue but will now add to his two caps — his last appearance being for just a minute against Australia in June — in Chicago and will hope that he gets decent game time to press his case for more exposure.

Though Stockdale’s inclusion in the squad for the Italy game may seem somewhat surprising, it was expected that both Ireland skipper Rory Best and Iain Henderson would not be involved with the forthcoming heavy November schedule involving the key Dublin Tests against Argentina and New Zealand which follow on consecutive Saturdays after the Italy clash.

Other Ireland squad members Rob Herring and Stuart McCloskey were also not included on the trip to the States and, as a result, both may now have to be content with game time in Ireland’s final autumn Test against the USA at the Aviva Stadium on November 24.

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