McCloskey ‘can cope’ with Welsh midfield

Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby has backed Stuart McCloskey to stand up to the physical threat posed by Wales' midfield if selected.

The young Ulster centre is in contention to start this Sunday when the defending champions host Wales in Dublin. McCloskey would therefore go up against the experienced combination of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

“I think Stuart has shown he can cope, he’s played against some big teams this year,” Easterby told reporters.

“Toulouse weren’t a small team if anyone was up in Ravenhill earlier this season. I certainly was and I thought he did really well that day. He’s gone well in the physicality stakes against Saracens too.

“So he’s a big man and so are Wales. They’ve got threats across their back line, the same kind of size as Stuart.

“He’s well able to step up and that wouldn’t be an issue for him if he were to be selected.”

Easterby added that the newer members in the Ireland squad have impressed during training over the last few weeks at Carton House.

“Guys have come in and trained really well. We’ve got to have a balance in trying to have some continuity from the World Cup," he explained.

“If guys are playing well and we feel they will add value and be better than the guys who have gone before, then we will pick them.

“I think a few guys have really put their hands up and that’s offered us some headaches in selection. We want to be coming out of selection meetings with a hard choice to make, and the players have been making it really competitive.

“We’re not as experienced as Wales, in terms of their match day 23. I think they’ve got more than 900 caps. We wouldn’t be as strong as that, but that’s not an issue.

“We’ve got enough experience through the spine of the team, and that allows us to pick players with a few caps or if they haven’t been capped before.

“Those experienced guys around them can support them and someone’s got to start at some point, win their first cap at some point.

“It might be this week, it might be next week, but I’m sure we’ll see guys in the next couple of weeks get their opportunities.”