No cheap caps and opportunity for O’Brien – Ireland versus Fiji talking points

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Ireland continue their autumn campaign against Fiji after retaining their status as rugby’s top-ranked nation with last weekend’s 19-16 win over world champions South Africa.

Head coach Andy Farrell has made nine personnel changes to the starting XV which toppled the Springboks, with Australia to come in a week’s time.

Here, the PA news agency picks out some of the main talking points ahead of Saturday’s clash in Dublin.

Just a “training session”?

Fiji head coach Vern Cotter has played down the prospect of pulling off a shock result at the Aviva Stadium. He believes Ireland are “barely looking” at his side due to their upcoming clash with Australia and suggested the hosts will treat the Test like a “training session”. Sandwiched between meetings with the Springboks and the Wallabies, the game is undoubtedly the most straightforward of Ireland’s appointments this month. Yet it represents a different type of challenge. Fiji are likely to be far more expansive than South Africa and will look for quick ball at every opportunity, which should lead to a breathless, end-to-end affair.

Walking wounded ahead of Wallabies clash

Ireland v South Africa – Autumn International – Aviva Stadium
Captain Johnny Sexton is among a host of injury absentees for Ireland (/PA)

No cheap caps

Jeremy Loughman
Jeremy Loughman will make his Ireland debut (Niall Carson/PA)

Captain Furlong

The raft of changes means influential prop Tadhg Furlong will become the 109th man to captain Ireland. British and Irish Lion Furlong, who has shaken off a minor ankle issue sustained against the Springboks, is a key cog in the Irish machine and deserving of the opportunity. He responded humbly to his appointment as skipper, saying he had never dreamt of performing the role, before adding a touch of humour. Asked what he did dream of, the 29-year-old replied: “Spuds. Gravy. The mother’s Sunday roast.”

Opportunity for O’Brien

Jimmy O’Brien, right, is preparing for a first Test start
Jimmy O’Brien, right, is preparing for a first Test start (Brian Lawless/PA)

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