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.
Not the result we wanted but an incredible experience nonetheless and proud of @CJStander playing 62 mins with two fractures in his cheek and eye socket ? pic.twitter.com/GUswqOO8QJ— Ryk Neethling (@RykNeethling) February 2, 2019
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
Pivac names squad for 2021 Six Nations
The squad features one uncapped player, Scarlets back-row Josh Macleod, who was named in the autumn squad last year but didn’t feature after picking up an injury before the campaign began.
Four players who made their international debuts in that campaign, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Johnny Williams and Louis Rees-Zammit are all included.
Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones and Rhodri Jones (last appearance for Wales v South Africa in 2018) are named as the looseheads in the squad with Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias and Ken Owens (who missed the autumn campaign through injury) the hookers. Leon Brown, Tomas Francis and Dillon Lewis are the three named tight-heads.
Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Will Rowlands and Cory Hill are included as the second-rows.
Dan Lydiate returns to the international set-up (last appearance v Australia in 2018) and is named alongside Josh Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Macleod and Justin Tipuric.
Hardy who made his debut back in November is named as one of three scrum-halves along with Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams, who has returned from injury. Dan Biggar, Jarrod Evans and Sheedy are the three fly-halves.
Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin are named as the centres with George North, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Rees-Zammit, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams named as Wales’ back-three options.
“We are hugely looking forward to meeting up as a squad on Monday and to the forthcoming campaign,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“The Guinness Six Nations is an important tournament and we have selected a squad accordingly.
“As we consistently spoke about, the autumn for us was about opportunity and development, looking ahead to RWC 2023 and it served that purpose for us.
“This campaign is different, it is tournament rugby and we are excited to get going and to play our part.
“We have picked a squad for this tournament based on form and we are excited to meet up on Monday and to get our preparation underway.”
Scotland name Six Nations squad.
The group, split between 20 forwards and 15 backs, sees eight new players called up who did not feature in the group that contested the recent 2020 Autumn Nations Cup.
In the pack Glasgow Warriors hooker George Turner is selected and joined in the front row by Zander Fagerson and Oli Kebble from Glasgow Warriors, alongside Edinburgh Rugby representatives WP Nel, Rory Sutherland and Simon Berghan.
Glasgow Warriors’ lock pairing Richie Gray and Scott Cummings, Exeter Chief, Jonny Gray are called up, along with Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist who left the ANC squad with an injury before the opening match.
Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie, who have both recently re-signed to long-term deals to stay at Edinburgh Rugby, are joined as back-row options by Glasgow Warrior Matt Fagerson and Scarlet’s Blade Thomson.
Gregor Townsend has chosen just two scrum-half’s for this campaign with Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price and Harlequins’ Scott Steele selected.
Linking up at half-back will be Racing 92’s Finn Russell who returns following an injury sustained in the concluding match of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations vs Wales and Edinburgh’s Jaco Van de Walt who made his Scotland debut in the ANC semi-final against Ireland.
Gloucester’s Chris Harris, Saracen Duncan Taylor, Glasgow Warrior Huw Jones and Harlequins’ James Lang are selected at centre.
In the back three Scotland Captain Stuart Hogg is joined by Edinburgh Rugby trio Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham and Duhan van de Merwe and Saracens’ Sean Maitland.
With an eye to the future three additional players have been invited to train with the squad during the campaign. Edinburgh Rugby back row forward, Rory Darge, Glasgow Warriors pair winger, Rufus MacLean and scrum-half, Jamie Dobie will join up with the squad, which goes into camp on Sunday.
Speaking on the squad selection Gregor Townsend said: “As coaches we have selected a group which we believe can build on the work our players put in throughout the recent Autumn Nations Cup campaign and kick on again in terms of performance levels.
“The depth we have across the squad enables us to bring in some new players who have excelled in recent weeks and others who we believe can perform at Test level.
“Our tournament gets off to a fantastic start with a fixture we look forward to every year against England and the opportunity to win back the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham.
“We are very aware how different this year’s competition will be due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it also provides a huge amount of positivity and enjoyment for millions of supporters and we are looking forward to contesting every match and giving this championship our very best.”
Paul O’Connell Joins Ireland Coaching Group
Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has joined the Ireland national coaching group as forwards coach with Simon Easterby to focus on defence.
Paul was capped 108 times by Ireland and captained the team to Six Nations success in 2014. O’Connell’s distinguished playing career also included seven Test match appearances for the British & Ireland Lions across three tours and two Heineken Cup titles with Munster.
Since retiring from playing in 2015, Paul has held coaching positions with the Munster Academy, Ireland Under-20s and Top 14 side Stade Francais.
“I am really looking forward to working with Andy and the rest of the coaching group. I worked with Simon as a player and am looking forward to working with him again. It’s an exciting young group of players to be involved with and there are talented forwards coming through across the four provinces that will no doubt be pushing for international selection in the coming months and years.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented:
“Paul brings a wealth of rugby knowledge with him and as forwards coach he will have responsibility for the forwards including the line-out working alongside John (Fogarty). He will also be another strong voice and leader within the group.
“Simon (Easterby) has a real passion for defence and having developed Ireland’s forward play over the past six years with the additional responsibility for the defence over the past 12 months, he will now be able to focus his energy and rugby intellect on this area of our game.
“The weekend’s Interpro games and the European fixtures in the weeks ahead will give players the opportunity to push for selection for the Six Nations squad. The squad will not be selected until after the Champions Cup Round 4 fixtures have been completed.”
IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented: “Paul is a young Irish coach with a huge amount of international rugby experience. We have been keen to find the right opportunity for him within Irish Rugby and we think the fit with the national squad will work well. He joins the national coaching group with immediate effect as they prepare for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.”