The summer tour will see Ireland play test matches against both Canada and the USA at the end of May to continue to expose players to international rugby. These games straddle the Heineken Cup final and will contain players who are not involved in either that final or the Lions tour to South Africa, allowing the Ireland team management to coach a greater spread of players.
In addition to this, members of the Ireland coaching staff will be covering the Ireland A team in the Churchill Cup tournament to take place during June. The summer tour and the Churchill Cup will see over 60 players come under the watchful eyes of the Ireland coaching staff that may not have had the opportunity to impress the coaches first hand outside of provincial duty.
The Ireland management also confirmed that the option of a fourth international during November was being discussed to take place at a venue outside of Ireland.
Commenting on the news, Ireland Coach Declan Kidney said, "This plan for the year allows us to spread the net across a greater number of players and to get to know them in the best way possible, on the training field and in international level games. With a total of 14 games that the national management will be involved in this year, it serves two purposes. One, it will give us the chance to work with players in a pressure situation who may be just below the more established members of the squad at this point in time and two, it gives them the exposure which is important for their development at the highest level."
He continued by paying tribute to Ireland Captain Brian O'Driscoll, "I am delighted that Brian has yet again agreed to lead the side in this year's championship. He has the leadership qualities which are vital at this level and, along with those of the other team leaders in the squad, will be important for the tournament ahead".
Ireland Matches 2009:
· RBS Six Nations Championship (5 games): February - March
· Summer Tour
- Canada v Ireland - 23rd May
- USA v Ireland - 30th May
· Churchill Cup (3 games) - June
· Guinness Series (November)
- Ireland v TBC - 7th/8th
- Ireland v Australia - 14th/15th
- Ireland V Fiji - 21st/22nd
- Ireland v South Africa - 28th/29th