Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip paid tribute to the kids as a second string side hammered Fiji 53-0 in Saturday’s friendly at Thomond Park.
Ulster’s Craig Gilroy, who scored a hat-trick of tries, and Iain Henderson were just two of the Irish youngsters to impress in Limerick.
Heaslip, standing in for injured skipper Brian O’Driscoll, said, “I was quite proud of the performance of the squad.
“It was a privilege to lead out a side that was full of such an enthusiastic bunch of guys.
“We talked all week about focusing on our roles and getting the details right. I said during the week that we have been training really well and, against Fiji, we played how we trained. We didn’t get any return last week against South Africa but I was quite proud to see the return we got this week.”
With Argentina next up at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday, Heaslip was delighted his side kept Fiji scoreless.
He added, “I’m more pleased with the zero conceded than the amount of tries we scored, to be honest.
It is really hard in international rugby, to be able to shut a team out and give them no scores at all. That zero was cool, I’m more proud of that than the scores.”
Henderson, Gilroy and Luke Marshall made their claims for a place against Argentina in the Thomond Park win.
Heaslip said, “We’ve talked a lot about owning that jersey for a day and even though it wasn’t a full test, for some of the younger guys, they really stepped up to the mark as if it was a full international. They did the jersey proud.”
Coach Declan Kidney admitted he now has selection problems ahead of Saturday’s game.
Kidney said, “It’s a new time for Irish rugby. There’s a whole new squad coming through and some fellas got their chance and showed that they want more of it.
“It certainly makes going to work easier on Monday when you’ve got a win."
Fergus McFadden (two), Sean Cronin, Darren Cave and Luke Marshall added to Gilroy’s three tries as
Kidney’s team bounced back from the defeat to South Africa a week earlier.
Kidney added, “They’ve certainly put their hands up anyway. I think that will have to be recognized in the way that we take a look at the videos and whether that affects selection or not, we’ll just have to wait and see. We won’t pre-empt anything.”
Ireland coach Kidney has called up Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock as a replacement for the Argentina game after Connacht flanker John Muldoon tore his medial knee ligament during the win over Fiji.
Muldoon will be out of action for three weeks but Jonathon Sexton and Eoin Reddan are expected to be fit.
Ireland must beat Argentina to remain in the top eight for the next World Cup.