One of Connacht’s biggest breakthrough talents of the past two seasons Kieran Marmion was last week named as the only uncapped back in Joe Schmidt’s 30-man Ireland squad for the tour to Argentina next month.

The 22-year-old scrum half is the second youngest player in the squad, after 20-year-old Connacht team mate Robbie Henshaw, and one of four yet to be capped at this level.

It didn’t come as a surprise to many when Marmion’s name was included in Schmidt’s roll call but Connacht’s top try scorer of the season was thrilled to get the nod:

“Yea, it was great to be called up. I was unsure as to where I’d be going this summer and Argentina was obviously where I wanted to be so it’s fantastic.

“It’s been a pretty hectic year and it can start to take its toll at times”, said Connacht’s Back of the Year who has played 56 consecutive games since his senior debut in September 2012.  “But Pat (Lam) has been very good in giving me extra time to recover in between games. I’ve obviously been very lucky not to get injured as well.”

This is Marmion’s second summer tour with the Irish squad after he travelled to North America twelve months ago. He was unlucky to return to Ireland the only uncapped player in a 28-man squad that saw five other players make their international debut, but the Connacht Academy graduate feels he has progressed even further since then:

“Obviously last year it was very disappointing not to get any game time but I feel this year that I have had even more time to learn. Joe (Schmidt) has been down to Connacht a good few times over the season and, like he does with everyone, he has given me areas of my game to work on. Hopefully now I can show that I have taken it all on board and am ready to step up. The main thing is to keep working and trying to improve all the time and hopefully it will stand to you in a tour like this.”

The Ireland squad took part in a two-day training camp in Dublin last week and Marmion explains what was involved:

“It was a busy two days with everyone in camp. A few of the lads had just played a game so the first day was just about doing a walk through. The second day we trained in the Aviva and that was a lot more live and quite intense at times but it felt great to get a run out.

“The main focus of the two days was getting to know the players around you as well as the different plays we’ll be looking at. Getting to grips with what we want to get out of this tour was also important.”

The Players’ Player of the Year, who recently signed a two-year extension on his Connacht contract, was making full use of the Sportsground facilities in Galway today in a bid to hit the ground running in Argentina:

“It’s less than a week before we go so I’m just trying to get a bit of extra training and gym work in where I can. Robbie (Henshaw) is up here too and the boys heading off to Romania on the Emerging Tour so we’ve a programme in place with our S&C instructor Jim Molony.”

With two other scrum halves in Eoin Reddan and Conor Murray traveling to South America, Marmion is benefiting from an abundance of experience around him:

“Yes Eoin and Conor have obviously been in and around the Ireland team for a long time now and I can take a lot from their experiences. I’m definitely learning from them both. They’ve been really good to me in training and helped me out by talking me through different things on the field.”

While Argentina today named a squad of mainly domestic-based players, the Ireland coaching team are still expecting a tough test against a team that have had quite a lot of game time together.

If selected, Marmion could come up against Argentina’s home-based scrum half Martin Landajo who has played 27 times for the Pumas but the Connacht man will be focusing on the task at hand:

“We haven’t been able to do that much detailed analysis on the Argentina side as we didn’t know who they were going to select in their squad with so many of their front line players playing abroad. At the moment, we’re just concentrating on ourselves and what we have to do. It’s a fairly short tour so there won’t be an overload of training. Our preparation off the pitch will be just as important as what we do on it.

“Personally, I obviously hope to get my chance to play and if I do, I want to perform well and show what I can do.”

Marmion has certainly impressed the Ireland coaching team enough to be selected. Speaking about the Connacht scrumhalf last week, Head Coach Joe Schmidt said:

“I think he has done a super job again this year, his resilience is amazing, his ability to defend behind the line, he has worked hard on his kicking and passing game and merits to have an opportunity at national level.”

The Ireland squad will depart for Argentina on Sunday 1st June, the day after the RaboDirect PRO12 final and Marmion is looking forward to playing rugby in some different surroundings:

“I’ve never been to that part of the world before but it will be a fairly short tour so not much time for exploring. I’ll be coming straight back home for a break which I’m looking forward to. I don’t have any holidays planned yet but hopefully I’ll get away somewhere. It’s Robbie’s 21st birthday while we’re over there but we’ll probably save the celebrations until we get back home.”

The first of Ireland’s two Test games takes place at the Estadio Centenario in Resistancia in Chaco Province in the northeast of the country on Saturday 7th June.  The second Test will be played in the Estadio José Fierro in Tucumán in North-western Argentina on Saturday 14th June.

Both Tests against the Pumas will kick-off at 15:40 local time (19:40 Irish Time) and will be broadcast live on SKY Sports 2 with coverage starting from 7.00pm.

Ireland has beaten Argentina 11 times in 18 meetings, drawing once and losing on six occasions.

Argentina v IRELAND
Saturday 7th June, 2014
Estadio Centenario, Resistencia, Chaco
KO 15:40 local time (19:40 Irish time)

REF: Glen Jackson (NZ) ASSIST REFS: Mike Fraser (NZ), Jaco van Heerden (SA) TMO: Shaun Veldsman (SA)

Argentina v IRELAND
Saturday 14th June, 2014
Estadio José Fierro, Tucumán
KO 15:40 local time (19:40 Irish time)

REF: Pascal Gauzerre (FRA) ASSIST REFS: Glen Jackson (NZ) Lourens van der Merwe (SA) TMO: Shaun Veldsman (SA)

Related

Connacht Eagles team named for Interpro clash against Munster A