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big test If Ireland's young guns don’t deliver against Georgia today, they can forget about the Six Nations


Ireland's Tadhg Beirne and team-mates Will Connors, left, and CJ Stander

Ireland's Tadhg Beirne and team-mates Will Connors, left, and CJ Stander

Ireland's Tadhg Beirne and team-mates Will Connors, left, and CJ Stander

I’M looking for a good Irish win against Georgia this afternoon, with the basics done right, as we end our group action in the Autumn Nations Cup at the Aviva Stadium.

Georgia have yet to score a point in their games against England and Wales.

Yet whatever they lack in attacking power, they do have a good meaty scrum and they will cherish the notion of playing at the Aviva today and giving Ireland a right physical going over.

They’ll remember too the 2007 World Cup when they almost beat Ireland in Bordeaux.

Coach Andy Farrell has made changes. He had to, he couldn’t keep lads in camp for four weeks and not give them a start somewhere.

So Farrell has brought in forwards, like prop Finlay Bealham and powerful flanker Tadhg Beirne, who will be well up for the Georgian fight.

But the first thing that must be done is getting our line-out right.

We can’t go into the Six Nations in three months time with this set-piece leaking good attacking positions as it did against France last month and England last week.

Ireland’s forwards coach, Simon Easterby, said all the right things last week about a good line-out being the result of combined work between the thrower, the lifters and the jumper.

He’s right, and you’ll always lose the odd line-out to the other team having a skilled player like Peter O’Mahony who can pilfer possession off even the best teams.

But some of what happened last week had nothing to do with English line-out excellence.

It was all to do with Ireland getting their basics badly wrong.

Set-piece rugby is the bread and butter. It’s what these fellas practice all week. It should not be going astray in serious attacking situations.

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Ireland coach Andy Farrell

Ireland coach Andy Farrell

Ireland coach Andy Farrell

Rob Herring has replaced Ronan Kelleher as Ireland’s thrower this afternoon and since the Georgians do not have a line-out to match England or France, he will be under pressure to get things 100 per cent right.

There’s no excuse not to!

Another man under pressure is out-half Billy Burns, who makes his first start for Ireland.

Farrell has wisely put Conor Murray inside him at scrum-half to guide Burns through the match.

In coming on against both Wales and England, Burns showed some deft touches.

This is a bit different. Even with Murray inside him taking off a bit of the strain, Billy has to take the whole show and put it on his shoulders this afternoon.

Indeed, out-half is now a huge position for Ireland in terms of our future prospects in international rugby.

All good things come to an end, and the great Johnny Sexton is nearer the end of his stellar career than the beginning of it.

And little niggling injuries have started to creep up on our skipper.

We must start to plan for the future. That future seemed to be Joey Carbery, but he is becalmed down in Munster with no sign of a date for a return to action.

And so it now falls to Leinster’s Ross Byrne and Burns of Ulster to carry us through – to give us time for one or two of the promising young talents at the position in Leinster and Munster to mature.

You are going nowhere in international rugby without a top-notch 10 to lead you and Burns gets his chance to show his wares today.

Unlike Ross Byrne in Twickenham, who was playing behind Irish players going backwards, Burns ought to get plenty of silver service ball this afternoon.

He has good backs outside him and the ball should go out there as fast and as often as possible - that’s where Georgia are weakest.

Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey gets a start at centre. A few years ago, he was the next big thing at the position for Ireland, a big unit with pace who could trample over the opposition.

Untimely injuries have held him back and a number of players have skipped McCloskey in the queue for Irish caps.

Now, with Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw sidelined, he gets his chance to impress and McCloskey will be determined to take it.

Ireland ought to win this match by 30 points, picking up a try bonus point into the bargain, with a side that is a nice mix of experience and the free spirit of youth.

All those younger lads ought to see themselves playing in the 2021 Six Nations, and so this is the day to deliver.

If you can’t deliver against Georgia today, you’ll hardly deliver against England or France next year!

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