Autumn Nations Cup: Ireland players will be better for 'priceless' Test experience

Shane Daly
Shane Daly is set to become the 10th players to win his first Ireland cap under Andy Farrell
Autumn Nations Cup: Ireland v Georgia
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Sunday 29 November Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio Ulster and online

Andy Farrell has reiterated his belief that Ireland's priority for the current autumn schedule is to build a deeper, more experienced squad.

In his first year in charge, which has been considerably disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the head coach has placed an emphasis on expanding his pool of players.

Should he come off the bench against Georgia, Munster's Shane Daly will become the 10th player to make his debut under Farrell, in what is just his eighth game in charge.

"I think we've made it pretty clear from the start that this is an opportunity for us to try and grow our pool," said Farrell.

"We're obviously a small playing pool, and with a small playing pool you're always one or two injuries away from crisis.

"This is an opportunity for us to gain some experience in a few different areas and make sure we build for the future."

Billy Burns, Will Connors and Hugo Keenan are among the players to have made their international debuts this autumn, and all have been named to start in Dublin on Sunday.

Meanwhile Stuart McCloskey is set to make his first appearance in two years, just his fourth for Ireland, nearly five years on from his debut.

With a comfortable victory against Autumn Nations Cup minnows Georgia the expected outcome, Farrell hopes the game will allow a number of relatively inexperienced players to feel increasingly comfortable in the Test rugby environment.

Billy Burns
Ulster's Billy Burns will make his first start against Georgia

Recent defeats against England and France have reinforced the idea that Ireland must improve considerably before being viewed as one of the top sides in the northern hemisphere.

Exposing players to the highest calibre of opposition, says Farrell, is the only way in which Ireland can take the next step.

"You're hoping along the way when you give opportunities, you're hoping for a performance, but not always does performance and opportunity marry up," he said.

"The priceless experience for us is going away to two big playing nations like France and England and learning and feeling the pressure.

"Learning from that experience and making sure we bottle it up for the future."

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