As Andy Farrell will be without eight of his best players this summer, there is a great opportunity to introduce some new faces to international rugby.
Ireland will take on Japan and the USA this July, in games where head coach Farrell will presumably look to test new combinations in his squad, as eight players will be touring South Africa with the British and Irish Lions.
We’ve decided to pick out five promising young players who could win their first caps for their country next month, after impressive performances for their provinces this season.
📄 𝗦𝘂𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗿 𝗧𝗲𝘀𝘁𝘀 🟢
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) May 10, 2021
James Hume – Ulster centre.
Young Ulster centre James Hume has been in excellent form for his province over the last year, and is one of the most promising young talents in the country at the moment.
Hume scored a great try in last year’s Guinness Pro14 final against Leinster, and has continued his fine form throughout this season in an Ulster team that has struggled for consistency.
“That is a massive moment for James Hume”
Leinster 0-5 Ulster
A fantastic run and try for James Hume to give @UlsterRugby the lead.
— eir Sport (@eirSport) September 12, 2020
The 22-year-old is a powerful ball carrier at 16 stone, but he is also a skilful player who is well able to offload in contact and put his teammates into try-scoring positions.
Ireland have an awful lot of depth in the centres, with Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell and Stuart McCloskey all of international quality, but Hume looks set to be a real talent himself.
Gavin Coombes – Munster back row.
Gavin Coombes has enjoyed a breakthrough season with Munster, and looks set to fill the void that will be left by CJ Stander in the southern province’s back row next term.
The 23-year-old has scored a stunning 11 tries for Munster across all competitions this season, and looks to be near impossible to stop from close range.
What a remarkable season this man is having 🤩@munsterrugby try machine Gavin Coombes was firing again over the weekend helping the Red Army to an important away win 🔴
Just how impressive has he been? pic.twitter.com/eYyDDaRhSd
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) February 23, 2021
Coombes was Munster’s best player in their biggest two matches this season – their Pro14 final against Leinster and their Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 game against Toulouse – and looks set to play a massive role for the southern province in the years to come.
As CJ Stander, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan and Will Connors (injured) will all be unavailable to Farrell for the games against Japan and the USA, expect Coombes to pick up at least one cap this summer.
Harry Byrne – Leinster fly-half.
Harry Byrne has long been heralded as a potential star for Ireland in the future, and the first steps in his international career could be taken next month against either Japan or the USA.
The youngster has shown that he is well able to perform in the Champions Cup for Leinster and has starred on numerous occasion for his province in the Pro14.
That’s excellent head-up rugby from @leinsterrugby 👏 👏 👏
Harry Byrne spots the space and Scott Penny times his run perfectly to collect and seal the win 👌
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) August 29, 2020
There were plenty of calls for Byrne to be included in Ireland’s team against Italy in the Six Nations this year, but Farrell opted against handing the Dubliner his first cap on that occasion.
While Byrne is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, he will hopefully be ready in time for Ireland’s games next month at the Aviva Stadium.
Michael Lowry – Ulster fullback/fly-half.
The diminutive Ulster back is one of the most exciting players in the country at the moment, and is seemingly able to create try-scoring chances out of virtually nothing.
Lowry has been a consistent performer for Ulster since he made his debut for the northern province in 2018, and at the age of 22, expect him to improve even more as he gets older.
“Look at the gas on Mike Lowry.” 🏃♂️💨
That is just sensational from the @UlsterRugby full-back!
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 4, 2021
The versatile back is somewhat similar to Springbok winger Cheslin Kolbe, as he possesses plenty of pace, a mean side-step and a relatively small frame compared to the giants that he comes up against on the rugby pitch.
Ireland aren’t exactly spoilt for choice at full-back at the moment – although Hugo Keenan has locked down the position – and Lowry would add some much-needed depth to the area for head coach Farrell.
Scott Penny – Leinster back row.
Powerful Leinster back row Penny has played exceptionally well for his home province ever since he made his senior debut at the age of 19.
The 21-year-old has scored nine tries for Leinster in just 13 games this season, and was named as the Pro14’s next-gen star of the season for his efforts.
Read more 👇#Awards2021
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) March 31, 2021
Penny was also included in the Pro14’s dream team this season, and is well able to play as either a flanker or a number eight.
The Leinster man is on the small side for a back row forward, standing at 6ft tall and weighing in at 16 stone, but he has never let his size affect him negatively on the rugby pitch.