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Injuries Pile Up, but Who Should Start for Ireland?

After Ireland’s defeat to England questions have been raised so who should be given a chance to play in Murrayfield?

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

With the loss to England fresh in the mind Ireland must move on quickly and pick themselves up before facing Scotland in Murrayfield on Saturday.

The thing on everyone’s mind is who will Joe Schmidt pick in his matchday 23 to bounce back.

It has been confirmed that Garry Ringrose, Devin Toner and CJ Stander will play no part against the Scots after picking up injuries which could force Schmidt’s selection slightly.

The main criticism that the team has faced in the aftermath of their defeat was their lack of intensity throughout the game. So, who could bring that up, who could kick start their championship?

To start with, the front-row. The pack was inferior to the English last weekend, but the front-rowers are unlikely to change with most expecting Cian Healy, captain Rory Best, and Tadhg Furlong to retain their places.

They had a bad day at the office, however it would be hard to see any of them getting dropped.

In the locks James Ryan is almost certain to continue in the team, the question is who will partner him? It’s between last week’s sub Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane, and newly drafted in Billy Holland after Toner was ruled out.

Roux has been a regular on the bench over the past while under Schmidt so he would appear the most likely to come into the starting XV, with Dillane or Holland on the bench.

The back-row is another area where a change is certain after it was confirmed CJ Stander played 62 minutes against England with two fractures in his cheek and eye socket. An injury which leaves him out for a minimum of four weeks.

The options at No 8 would probably be Jack Conin, an out and out eight, or the highly versatile Sean O’Brien. Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy are other options, but what would seem clear is that whoever is picked will play with Peter O’Mahony and Josh Van Der Flier.

O’Mahony’s position is never really under question when he is fit as his leadership and work rate would see him into nearly any team. Van Der Flier has surely cemented his place in the side for at least this match after an outstanding showing in defeat, in which he made a sensational 19 tackles.

No 6 O’Mahony believes Leinster man O’Brien should start, but admits that he doesn’t pick the team, it’s only his opinion.

“I’m not going to sit here and pick the team, but Sean O’Brien, the name along speaks for itself,” he said when speaking about the weekend.

“He’s been unlucky with injury here and there, but there isn’t anybody more professional and a big-game player than Sean O’Brien,” he added showing his support for O’Brien’s inclusion.

Elsewhere, the half-backs are pretty set in stone with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton expected to continue at scrum-half and out-half respectively.

Joey Carbery could be a surprise inclusion if there is any doubt over Sexton but is more likely to remain on the bench.

Bundee Aki will probably be at 12, and after his stint at full-back, Robbie Henshaw is almost certain to come in at 13 for the injured Garry Ringrose.

Chris Farrell is another option, along with utility back Will Addison if Schmidt wants to switch things up.

Henshaw’s move from 15 will mean changes to the back three too.

Last year’s player of the championship, Jacob Stockdale, has to stay at 11 after he still managed to make 78 metres last weekend with hardly any ball in hand.

Keith Earls trained well earlier today but was unconvincing against England before his withdrawal at half-time. That could open up the door for the likes of Jordan Larmour or Will Addison to sneak onto that wing, but probably not.

Andrew Conway would have been an option but has returned to Munster following an injury and is unavailable.

Rob Kearney is the most obvious choice to replace Henshaw at full-back after being left out last weekend. It is an opportunity he would relish to show his worth to the team.

Larmour and Addison could also be considered, however Kearney would be the most reliable selection. Whoever is picked will have to be up for a lot of running with Scotland’s Stuart Hogg on top form at the moment.

Outside the starting team, the bench is as competitive.

Sean Cronin is most likely to be at 16 while Jack McGrath and Dave Kilcoyne will both be options at 17, and Andrew Porter probably at 18.

Whoever misses out between Roux, Dillane, and Holland in the battle to partner Ryan in the second-row will have to fight for a place on the bench too.

Holland being drafted into the squad would suggest he will probably be an impact sub to come in after the hour mark.

Again, the losers of the war in the back-row between Murphy, O’Brien, Ruddock and Conan will have to compete to be in the 23.

John Cooney is certain to be on the bench after his brilliant cameo last weekend when he scored a try and impressed with his quick hands.

Carbery will have to be in the squad with his quality, so if not in the first 15 he will be the 22nd man.

Larmour and Addison will be the three that will be trying to force their way into the 23.

The changes will bring new dimensions, but the team as a whole will need to bring their A-game to win back the fans and send a message out that they are still in the running for the World Cup.

No place is certain following last weekend’s defeat and with the likes of Dan Leavy, Tadhg Beirne, Luke McGrath, and so on to also come back from injury before Japan. This is not only a chance to get back in title race, but a way to steak a claim for a place on that plane.

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6 Nations

Ireland Announce Team to Play Scotland

Ireland have announced their 23-man squad to face Scotland in the opening round of the Six Nations against Scotland

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(Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has announced his first 23-man squad for their opening Six Nations game against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday at 16 45.

As was expected captain Johnny Sexton has been passed fit to play and starts alongside Conor Murray in the half-backs. 

Meanwhile, there are two uncapped players in the squad with Leinster duo Caelan Doris and Ronan Kelleher, in the starting XV and among the bench respectively. 

Elsewhere, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong begin either side of hooker Rob Herring, with Iain Henderson and James Ryan slotting in behind in the second-row pairing. 

CJ Stander has been chosen as the blindside-flanker, with Josh van der Flier at openside and Doris makes his debut at No 8, completing the pack. 

Murray gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of John Cooney, which will come as a surprise to many fans, and is joined in the half-backs by Sexton as mentioned above and they have a midfield of Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose outside them. 

Jacob Stockdale takes up his place on the left-wing, with Andrew Conway on the right and Jordan Larmour has overcome a minor foot injury to finish the team from full-back. 

Farrell has plenty of experience on the bench with the likes of Devin Toner, Peter O’Mahony and Robbie Henshaw among those joining youngster Kelleher among the replacements. 

Ireland will be hoping to put a disappointing 2019 behind them and kick start their campaign on the right foot when they welcome the Scots. While Farrell will hope that his trust in certain players will pay off and give him a winning start to the job. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

Starting XV: 

15. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 21 caps

14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 18 caps

13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 28 caps

12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 23 caps

11. Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 25 caps

10. Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 88 caps Captain

9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 78 caps

1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 95 caps

2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 8 caps

3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 41 caps

4. Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 53 caps

5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

6. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 38 caps

7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

8. Caelan Doris (UCD/Leinster)*

Replacements:

16. Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)*

17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 36 caps

18. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

19. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 67 caps

20. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 64 caps

21. John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 8 caps

22. Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 3 caps

23. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 40 caps

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6 Nations

Scotland Suffer Major Six Nations Blow

Scotland have been dealt a huge blow ahead of their Six Nations opener against Ireland in just over a week

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Scotland could be without fly-half Finn Russell for the entire Six Nations campaign according to reports after he left the team camp of his own accord.

BBC Sport are reporting that the 27-year-old Racing 92 star has breached “team protocol” and it has been confirmed by Scottish Rugby that he will not feature during the team’s opening game against Ireland on February 1st. 

“Finn Russell will play no further part in preparations for Scotland’s Six Nations opener,” a statement read.

Some believed that the player was injured during last weekend’s Champions Cup defeat to Saracens while on club duty, but there are growing concerns that there may be tension between Russell and head coach Gregor Townsend. 

Russell has had problems before with the coaches tactics and didn’t hide anything following last year’s Six Nations draw with England, when the Scots came back from 31-7 at half-time to draw 38-all in the end. 

“I actually had an argument with Gregor [at half-time]. I said to him ‘you’re telling us to kick and when we kick, they just run it back and cut us open, and when we run it, they’re just hitting us behind the gain line and winning the ball back’. Second half, we just came out with nothing to lose, played our rugby, kicked out of our half and scored some great tries. We played good Scottish rugby,” he said after the game last March.

However, there is no certainty as to what is the actual reason behind the scenario, but Russell will in fact head back to Racing for now. 

It is a huge blow for Scotland with Russell being one of the more experienced players among a young group, but it appears as though Adam Hastings would be most likely to take his place. However, fans will be worried with it being unknown whether or not their skillful playmaker will be involved at all during this year’s competition. 

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6 Nations

Smith Defends Parisse “Send-Off” Decision

Italian head coach Franco Smith has defended the decision to allow Sergio Parisse play only one game in the Six Nations this year in order to give him a send-off

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(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

New Italy head coach Franco Smith has come out to defend the decision to allow Sergio Parisse have a send-off in the team’s final home match in the upcoming Six Nations campaign.

It has been confirmed that former captain Parisse, who has a total of 142-caps to his name for the side will not be involved at any other point of the competition other than their game against England in Rome on March 14th. 

The 36-year-old had planned to make his final appearance against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup pool stages last year, only for the game to be cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis. Smith believes that it is only right to give Parisse one last chance to play in blue. 

“Sergio will be involved in the last game with England and he has a lot to contribute. I said to Sergio two days ago not to worry and he doesn’t want to let the team down. I said we would stick to the plan and I will help him settle in and give him the best opportunity to play as well as he can. There was a misinterpretation that it will be a goodbye game and that is not the case and the agreement we have is that he is going to contribute one last time. We have turned the page, but he (Parisse) is a player of stature and deserves a send-off, but it is not just a send-off game and we hope he can make a difference and contribute from a leadership point of view and also be the icon we can follow,” he said. 

Smith thinks that the other players in the squad may gain motivation by seeing Parisse get a send-off as they will see what could happen to them if they reach the high-levels he has. 

“If other players see the send-off that Sergio gets then that will inspire them to be as good as they can be in an Italian jersey as well. He will come into camp when he can but we have also made an agreement with his club in France. He was a leader for Italian rugby for so long that very few leaders were developed and now it is time for a new leadership group and we have identified seven players of which Luca Bigi is the captain. Sergio will come and contribute for old time’s sake,” he added. 

The news has got a mixed reception from some fans, but maybe it will be something to motivate younger players in the squads as Smith believes. 

Meanwhile, the new head coach, who took over from Conor O’Shea following the World Cup, is looking to Japan for inspiration with his new side. 

“I want to help the team get to the next level and the game is going to change. Japan helped with the way they went about it ( at the World Cup) saying they couldn’t beat other teams with the way they play and we have to find our own way. I think that will be a point of reference (for us). For a long time Italy played in a way to beat teams not necessarily with their own game. The pressure game has been a feature of the last six or seven years and attack is the most difficult area to coach,” he finished up on. 

Italy face a tough task heading into the campaign with current Grand Slam holders Wales up first on February 1st, with the Azzurri looking to end a run of 22 defeats in a row in the tournament.

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