'He's something we may well need': Will Addison starts for Ireland in World Cup warm-up against Wales
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has given Will Addison renewed hope of making it onto the plane to Japan for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
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The 27-year-old will get his first rugby action since January after being named to start at full-back in Ireland's World Cup warm-up against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday (2.30pm kick-off).
The versatile former Sale man will win his fourth cap in a re-jigged Irish midfield looking to bounce back from last weekend's thumping at the hands of England.
Addison last took the field against Leicester in Ulster's Champions Cup pool eight months ago but has been brought in alongside Andrew Conway, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty and Chris Farrell behind the pack.
As Schmidt prepares to make the final call on his 31-man squad for Japan after this weekend's game, he has hinted that he's backing Addison to force his way into the panel.
"It's his first run-out for a long time so for Will it's a really important opportunity but he has to hit the ground running. He's trained really well this week and we'd be very hopeful he can slot in quickly," said Schmidt.
"At the very last minute, before we played Argentina in November, he stepped in at very late notice, played 13 and did a very good job for us. That's the sort of versatility he offers us. The fact that he plays on the wing and he's a very good kicker of the ball, including goal kicking. He becomes that jack of all trades that we may well need.
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"He's a jack of all trades but he's a master of a few as well and we'd love to see him put his best foot forward on Saturday."
Schmidt confirmed that Addison, a late addition to the Ireland training squad after recovering from back surgery, and Garry Ringrose will provide the immediate back-up to starting out-half Jack Carty.
There are only four players retained from last weekend in the starting line-up, Peter O'Mahony, Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki and Iain Henderson, although a further number, including Rory Best, should get their own chance for redemption from the bench.
Best, of course, came in for some intense criticism after last weekend's defeat to England, but Schmidt again emphasised his support for his captain.
"Rory feels that he was underdone and didn't have the energy in his legs (last week)," he said.
"The people who have really launched the criticism at him - some of it is unfair. The quality that he provided in terms of his support play and his breakdown work was still of a really good standard. To put his performance in a nutshell that is the line-out, which has so many moving parts - he'll be disappointed with a few throws but at the same time we're disappointed with a couple of the calls, a little bit of the speed, shape of movement.
"There is a little bit of undue criticism but at the same time Rory is very self critical and he is very conscious of wanting to improve himself. I'm not sure he has read what is external but I know he sets an incredibly high benchmark for himself. He didn't reach that and he's very keen to re-establish that benchmark coming off the bench on Saturday."
"We're in a better place to play rugby now, rather than prepare to play rugby," added Schmidt at Carton House.
"The confirmation of that doesn't come until we get through Saturday and see how players have performed."
Wales named an inexperienced team earlier in the day, including two debutants, for what will be the Welsh farewell of long-serving coach Warren Gatland.
Ireland team to face Wales
W Addison; A Conway, C Farrell, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Carty, K Marmion; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, John Ryan; I Henderson, James Ryan; T Beirne, P O'Mahony (capt), J Conan.
Replacements: A Porter, R Best, T Furlong, D Toner, J Murphy, L McGrath, G Ringrose, D Kearney.
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