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Half-backs have the skills to thrill in Tiblisi

Emerging Ireland will encounter their Italian counterparts in The Tblisi Cup at Avchala Stadium in Georgia today (KO 2pm Irish time).

The main source of excitement stems from the half-back merger between Northampton-bound JJ Hanrahan and former Ireland U20 captain Luke McGrath.

These two have the tools to thrill through their spontaneous skills, Hanrahan as the visionary mover and shaker in attack with a hard enough edge to play at centre for Munster.

McGrath has been stymied by the presence of Eoin Rddan and Isaac Boss, two half-backs who simply 'know the game'.

He will be eager to make his move next season.

His arsenal of gifts include an electric break, an embrace of the physical side of the game allied to a hard-working attitude on the snap and length of his delivery.

The most interesting casting is that of last year's Ireland U20 captain Dan Leavy on the openside

"In the short period we have been together, we have had a very positive response from the players," said coach Allen Clarke.

"The game against Emerging Italy provides an opportunity for these players to illustrate to us how well they have prepared and their ability to cope within this challenging environment."

Tiernan O'Halloran, Stuart McCloskey, Denis Buckley and Jack Conan are other persons of interest.

Ireland: T O'Halloran; A Conway, E Griffin, S McCloskey, M Healy; JJ Hanrahan, L McGratth; D Buckley, R Herring, S Archer, B Marshall, B Holland, R Ruddock (capt), D Leavy, J Conan.