It has been an unusual 19 months for Stuart McCloskey. From an eye-catching Test debut in Twickenham, to a succession of injuries that have halted his progress, Saturday represents just his second outing in green. And the Ulster man can’t wait.

The powerful centre put in a decent shift against a resolute English defence and was heralded as the perfect foil at 12; strong defensively and well capable of getting over the gainline.

Unfortunately it hasn’t gone according to plan for the 25-year-old.

Two years ago he played 23 times for Ulster and was nominated for Player of the Year.

The following season was something of a nightmare as he broke his foot, tore his calf and also nursed an elbow injury at one stage.

He managed just 13 starts for Ulster, missed the November series and Six Nations through injury and found himself down the Ireland pecking order behind Jared Payne, Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw.

Connacht star Bundee Aki is now also in the mix, but Joe Schmidt has named McCloskey in his much-changed team to face Fiji, partnered by debutant Chris Farrell.

"I felt I worked hard this year and there were things to work on and I’m glad to get the opportunity," he told RTÉ Sport.

"Coming into this year I was just trying to stay fit and play my own game. I think that’s been rewarded and hopefully I can go out and show what I can do."

Having his former provincial team-mate Farrell alongside him is somewhat of a novelty.

Chris Farrell, left, and Stuart McCloskey, in Irish training this week

"I think the last time we played together we would have been 19 or 20 for Dungannon or Ulster A. We have both come on leaps and bounds since then."

Comparisons are inevitable between the pair with their similarities, but their respective games differ, which should be borne out on Saturday evening.

McCloskey referenced his off-loading game (former Ireland international Tony Ward likened his ability in contact to Sonny Bill Williams earlier this month), while praising the Farrell's passing range.

With only Andrew Conway and Devin Toner remaining from the comprehensive victory over South Africa, a whole host of new combinations will be on show, though McCloskey says that the preparation leading into the game has been good.

"The team that is playing this week trained through last week. We have got a bit of continuity through that with experienced guys like Marms [Kieran Marmion] and Joey Carbery has played a few games now."

Admitting the atmosphere last Saturday "seemed great" and the clash with Fiji also a sell-out, the Ulster man can’t wait to run out onto the Aviva Stadium pitch for the first time in an Ireland jersey.

Live coverage of Ireland v Fiji begins on Saturday on RTÉ 2 television and RTÉ Player at 4.30. Live commentary is on RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday Sport, which starts at 2.45, and you can follow all of the build-up and action on our live blog online at rté.ie/sport and on the News Now app.