With the eyes of most rugby fans drawn towards New Zealand and the Lions, Joe Schmidt brings an inexperienced squad to the US and Japan for Ireland's three-game summer tour. 

The 30-man squad includes eight uncapped players - John Cooney, Dave Heffernan, Rory O'Loughlin, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Rory Scannell, Jacob Stockdale, Kieran Treadwell. 

And Schmidt says he would be quite content to lose a few more of his A-listers to the Lions jersey in the meantime. 

"I'd like to (lose a few more players). I think Cian (Healy) must have been close, Keith Earls must have been close, Garry Ringrose must have been close. I think in the context of those sorts of guys, you'd love to see them get that pinnacle. Because the Lions is that. Outside the Rugby World Cup, I don't think there's anywhere bigger to go to."  

Ireland's tour commences against the United States in New Jersey next Saturday (10 June). Thereafter, they head to Japan for two internationals in successive weeks. 

A Lions summer has traditionally offered the four national coaches an opportunity to try out a host of untested and uncapped players. Robbie Henshaw, for instance, made his debut in the tour of US and Canada four years ago. 

But despite the raft of uncapped players in the squad, Schmidt is inclined to play down the notion that this tour merely serves as an opportunity to give the newbies a run-out. He says he anticipates a stiff challenge from both the US and Japan.

USA coach John Mitchell - who coached New Zealand at the 2003 World Cup - is leaving after the summer tour and Schmidt anticipates he will be keen to leave on a high. And he extols the recent achievements of the Japanese, whom Ireland have drawn in their pool for the Rugby World Cup. 

He was especially impressed by their play in their startlingly narrow 33-30 loss to Wales in Cardiff last November. 

"The Japanese have just been so impressive lately. I know they've got a squad of 50 that Jamie (Joseph) is tracking. Obviously in the Asian Pacific area, they dominate. But even coming up here last November they were incredibly impressive in the Millennium Stadium against a close to fully fit, fully loaded Welsh team. At 30 point all, with a couple of minutes to go, they actually broke out and almost had an opportunity to win against the Welsh. And we're all fully aware of their Rugby World Cup exploits."

As for the USA, Schmidt is bracing his young players for an intense physical challenge, suggesting that the underdogs may hold an advantage in that area.

"Certainly physically, they're probably going to be bigger and a bit more powerful than we are. So we're going to have to be really smart and box clever and be really efficient in what we do over there."

It's not only new players that are being blooded this summer, a few old friends have been drafted onto the coaching staff. Ronan O'Gara and Girvan Dempsey were part of the training camp in Carton House this week, with Felix Jones arriving in time for the tour.