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Published: 12:18 | 18/11/17

New-look Ireland "confident" of putting Fiji to the sword


Ireland captain Rhys Ruddock says a new-look side have the confidence to beat Fiji in the Autumn International at the Aviva Stadium.

Ruddock will get a rare outing in a green shirt at home as Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt makes 13 changes to the side that started last weekend's 38-3 win over South Africa in Dublin.

The Leinster back-row, son of former Welsh Grand Slam-winning coach Mike, was captain of Ireland's summer tour of the United States and Japan.

Centre Chris Farrell makes his Ireland debut, while Munster team-mate Darren Sweetnam, Ulster hooker Rob Herring and Leinster prop Andrew Porter all make their first starts. New Zealand-born Joey Carbery makes his second start for Ireland, after impressing as a second-half replacement for Johnny Sexton against the Springboks.

Carbery joins Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion in a new half-back partnership for Ireland.

Munster's back Andrew Conway and Leinster second row Devin Toner are the only two players to keep their place from the XV that started last week's win over Allister Coetzee's side.

Ruddock, captaining his country for the fourth time, said: “My message is to be confident in the group.

“We haven’t played much together, but the way things have gone gives us great confidence that we can go out and be the team that you saw last weekend.

“Everything we have done to this point has been great, but the real challenge is under the lights against the opposition we have and putting into practice what we’ve done all week on the bigger stage.”

“The coaching staff we have, we know we’ll always have a good plan and if the guys show the commitment to it in the way we train and the way we prepare, then we’re in with a good shout against any team. The level in training this week has been no different to last so that gives us great confidence.

“At the same time we’re well aware that this is a huge test, both in terms of the limited experience we have on our side, the lack of time with the combinations and the ability of the opposition.”

Ruddock is calling on Ireland to reach the standards of last week's South Africa rout, but knows it will be tough.

Ireland face a Fiji side that is above next week's opponents Argentina in the current world rankings. The South Pacific side can boast such talent as Nemani Nadolo, Timoci Nagusa and Leone Nakarawa in their starting XV.

Ruddock added: “We've got to be able to live at that level week in week out, even despite the much-changed team.

“That's going to be tough, but that's our job as professionals.

“Hopefully we've done enough in our preparation and we can go out there and get the job done". 

Ireland: A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, S McCloskey, D Kearney; J Carbery, K Marmion; J McGrath, R Herring, A Porter, U Dillane, D Toner, R Ruddock [capt], J Murphy, J Conan.

Replacements: James Tracy, C Healy, T Furlong, K Treadwell, CJ Stander, L McGrath, I Keatley, R Henshaw.

Image: getty/ Billy Stickland

eir Sport is the home of international rugby in November. On 18 November, eir Sport subscribers can watch Italy against Argentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence [kick off 2pm, eir Sport 2], followed by Scotland versus world champions New Zealand at Murrayfield [kick off 5.15pm, BT Sport 2], and then round off a super Saturday of Test match rugby with France v South Africa at the Stade de France [kick off 8pm, eir Sport 2]

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