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Preview: Ireland XV v Fiji

16th November 2012 07:30

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Dan Tuohy Ireland

Big chance: Dan Tuohy

Thomond Park hosts an Irish XV taking on Fiji in their non-cap international, which promises to be an open fixture as personal points look to be made.

Six Ulster, four Munster, four Leinster and one Connacht player have been handed starts for the Irish as this fringe outfit look to prove their worth.

Fiji meanwhile enter following a dismal final 60 minutes after starting so brightly against England while off-field concerns cloud their game. Bringing you up to speed, the Fijian Rugby Federation recently made a formal complaint to their French counterparts over Jone Qovu withdrawing from their squad claiming he was injured before playing for his club Racing. This after shocking revelations by ex-club coach Simon Mannix.

The picture couldn't be more different for Ireland as their Rugby Football Union has serious clout when it comes to managing their international players. Their first-team stars are not in the XV this week and for many supporters this is a much-needed hit-out to test their depth, something that has long been a concern. Subsequently we saw a prop, who had pretty much got off the plane from New Zealand join the international fray.

Quality that is coming through the ranks though comes in the shape of Iain Henderson, Paddy Jackson, David Kilcoyne and Luke Marshall and they make starts this week. It would have been good to see scrum-half Paul Marshall start as he is more deserving than most.

While a home victory is expected, there is a smattering of cautiousness from Declan Kidney in that six of last week's starters make the replacements bench. Expect if things are tight on the 55-minute mark that Cian Healy, Jonathan Sexton and Simon Zebo will get the call.

"This is a special group. There's a lot of positive energy around, said a delighted Ireland forwards coach following their narrow 16-12 defeat to South Africa at the Aviva Stadium.

Kidney, Smal and Ireland will hope that vibe translates to a positive victory in Limerick.

Ones to watch:

For Ireland XV: Luke Marshall and Paddy Jackson have been impressing for Ulster while Craig Gilroy knows his way to the line. But we are going for blindside Iain Henderson as our main man to watch. In the absence of Ulster favourite Stephen Ferris due to injury problems, flanker Henderson has filled in admirably at Ravenhill and will be looking to follow up his international debut off the bench last week with carries against the Fijians. Elsewhere and lock Dan Tuohy has been unlucky not to feature more for Ireland so this is a chance for him.

For Fiji: One of the islanders' strongest performers against England was Api Naikatini, who this Saturday moves from the back-row into lock. Naikatini possesses quality with ball in hand so Ireland must be wary of him. Another who stood tall at HQ was Nikola Matawalu.

Head-to-head: It will be youth versus experience in the front-row as one-cap David Kilcoyne meets Deacon Manu. Kilcoyne is set to have on-the-job training that will be priceless to his possible long-term future as a Test loosehead. Gert Smal reckons he has what it takes.

Recent results:

2009: Ireland won 41-6 at Royal Dublin Society
2002: Ireland won 64-17 at Lansdowne Road

Prediction: Plenty of home players looking to prove they have what it takes. Ireland by 14!

The teams:

Ireland XV: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (capt), 7 John Muldoon, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 Simon Zebo.

Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Simeli Koniferedi, 13 Vereniki Govena, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Jonetani Ralulu, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Malakai Ravulo, 6 Iliesa Ratuva, 5 Api Naikatini, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Jerry Yanuyanutawa.
Replacements: 16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Manasa Saulo, 18 Setefano Somoca, 19 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20 Jovili Domolailai, 21 Kelemedi Bola, 22 Saula Radidi, 23 Timoci Matanavou.

Date: Saturday, November 17
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Neil Hennessy (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

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2England58
3Wales56
4France56
5Scotland52
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