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Though Ireland were unable to lift the Six Nations trophy for the first time since 2013, head coach Joe Schmidt believes his squad’s strength in depth has been there for all to see.
After triumphs in 2015 and 2015, Ireland had to settle for third place this year, behind Grand Slam winners England and runners up Wales.
Back-to-back home wins against Italy and Scotland to finish the campaign though, left Irish eyes smiling.
Josh van der Flier, Stuart McCloskey, CJ Stander, Ultan Dillane and Finlay Bealham all made their Ireland debuts in recent weeks.
And Schmidt believes that bodes well as attentions turn to the summer tour to South Africa.
“It was five new caps and some of them were making their PRO12 debuts about this time last year,” he said.
“Guys like Ultan Dillane and Josh van der Flier have had very little pro rugby let alone Test experience but they are so keen to learn.
“Stu McCloskey is learning fast and trying to grow his game to get more than just a carrying game, but a game where he can make the best offload and pass at width.
“Defending when up against the likes of Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph and Mike Brown (against England) that was a hell of a challenge, so those new guys have all come in and made progress.
“CJ has made an impact in every game and Peter (O’Mahony) is probably looking at that and going, ‘well I better roll my sleeves up’.”