Emerging Ireland: Simon Easterby to lead 35-player squad to South Africa in September for Toyota Challenge

·2-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

An Emerging Ireland side will take part in the Toyota Challenge in Bloemfontein later this year, the Irish Rugby Football Union has announced.

Led by Simon Easterby, the coaching team includes Paul O’Connell, Mike Catt and John Fogarty, with three games on the schedule in South Africa.

The matches are set to clash with United Rugby Championship fixtures but offers the Ireland coaching team a closer look at up-and-coming players.

35-player squad will travel

A squad of 35 players will be named to tour and they will take on Currie Cup sides across a nine day period – the Windhoek Draught Griquas (September 30), the Airlink Pumas (October 5) and the Toyota Cheetahs (October 9). All the fixtures will take place at the Toyota Stadium, the home of the Cheetahs.

“This opportunity presented itself quite late but the drawn series against the Maori All Blacks in July highlighted the value of exposing less experienced players to the rigours of an international set-up and the benefit that can be garnered from a challenging touring environment and exposure to the national coaching group,” said IRFU performance director David Nucifora.

“This tournament will provide a significant development opportunity for a group of talented young players.”

Head coach Easterby added: “The growth we witnessed in the less experienced players in New Zealand over the four weeks was incredible to see.

“The two Maori fixtures were invaluable in broadening our talent pool ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023 and the coaching group see this as another opportunity to increase the depth of talent available to the national squad ahead of the World Cup in France and beyond.”

Toyota Challenge 2022

Friday, September 30
Windhoek Draught Griquas v Emerging Ireland
Kick-off: 13:45 local (12:45 BST, 11:45 GMT))

Wednesday, October 5
Airlink Pumas v Emerging Ireland
Kick-off: 17:00 local (16:00 BST, 15:00 GMT)

Sunday, October 9
Toyota Cheetahs v Emerging Ireland
Kick-off: 13:00 local (12:00 BST, 11:00 GMT)

READ MORE: United Rugby Championship: Former Leinster centre Conor O’Brien forced into retirement

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