Ireland will open their Six Nations campaign in Dublin on February 2nd, against an English side on a redemption mission. While most of the squad is nailed down, there are spots up for grabs, particularly on the bench
Cian Healy seems to have overtaken Jack McGrath again, after a few years of backing up his Leinster team-mate. Captain Rory Best is a dead cert for the number two jersey. The Ulsterman has not played an awful lot of club rugby lately, but generally saves his best performances for the green jersey. Tighthead prop is a no brainer; Tadhg Furlong. The Wexford man is by some distance the best in the world in his position
James Ryan and Devin Toner are in pole position for the engine room. Toner is basically undroppable for Joe Schmidt, there is no better lineout operator in the country. We saw this against Argentina in the autumn; a misfiring lineout righted itself as soon as Toner arrived on the scene. James Ryan is incredible, in a word. Already one of the best in the world in his position at only 22, he always puts up ridiculous numbers in defence and attack, Ryan will carry and tackle all day long. Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne may feature at some point, injury permitting.
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Two spots here are dead certs: Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander. O’Mahony is a future Ireland captain, and is a brilliant leader in the pack, while Stander will carry ball all day. Openside is up in the air, given the timely return of Sean O’Brien. Josh Van Der Flier has been in amazing form for Leinster, and Dan Leavy looks likely to be fit in time to feature. Dan Leavy is a very good ball carrier as well as his breakdown ability, while Van Der Flier will tackle everything that moves, and Sean O’Brien when he’s on song, is the best in the world. Josh Van Der Flier will probably start to begin with, Sean O’Brien might take the 20 jersey, given that he has been playing number 8 a lot for Leinster, and is probably the most versatile bench option. Jordi Murphy has been flying for Ulster and will probably feature off the bench.
Very little to discuss here. Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton. The only pairing in the world that rivals Smith and Barrett. Irish fans will be praying there will be no injuries. Embed from Getty Images
Robbie Henshaw has returned at just the right time. The Athlone man looked to be straight back to his best against Wasps at the weekend, and should start against England. Garry Ringrose has maintained his high standards performing for Leinster, and is a dead cert for 13, Bundee Aki, and both Farrells (Tom and Chris) will be waiting in the wings should there be any injuries Embed from Getty Images
Jacob Stockdale, Rob Kearney, and Keith Earls will almost definitely be the three chosen. Earls has been in outstanding form for Munster and is well deserving of a spot. Stockdale has been in great try scoring form Ulster and will hopefully build on his great performances in the last year November. Rob Kearney has been struggling for fitness lately but will come into the team as soon as he is fit. Kearney has wonderful fielding ability, and covers the entirety of the backfield himself, an integral part of Andy Farrell’s defensive system. Will Addison is the most likely candidate to come in should there be any injuries. Jordan Larmour is also in contention, but Addison has the edge defensively. Embed from Getty Images
Sean Cronin has his
Bench backrower will probably be Sean O’Brien. He covers each position to an incredibly high standard. Replacement scrum half should go to John Cooney. Caoilin Blade is in contention, but aside from injury probably will not get any gametime. Joey Carbery has been in flying form for Munster, his move south having proved incredibly beneficial. He has made his last 20 kicks at goal in a row, since Munster’s loss to Castres in the Champion’s Cup, proving his worth as Johnny Sexton’s deputy. The 23 jersey should be Will Addison’s. The English-born Ulsterman covers 11-15 to an international standard Embed from Getty Images
Predicted Match Day 23:
- Cian Healy
- Rory Best
- Tadhg Furlong
- James Ryan
- Devin Toner
- Peter O’Mahony
- Josh Van Der Flier
- CJ Stander
- Conor Murray
- Johnny Sexton
- Jacob Stockdale
- Robbie Henshaw
- Garry Ringrose
- Keith Earls
- Rob Kearney
16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Quinn Roux
20. Sean O’Brien
21. John Cooney
22, Joey Carbery
23. Will Addison
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.”
Scotland name strong team for Wales
Issued by SRU
Fresh from securing the European and Premiership double with his club Exeter Chiefs, Hogg plays at full back as one of five changes to the starting XV from the Scotland side that defeated Georgia 48-7 last week.
Finn Russell lines up at fly-half after winning his 50th Scotland cap in the Georgia victory at BT Murrayfield on Friday night, and is joined in the half-backs by Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price.
In the back division, Blair Kinghorn shifts to the wing from full-back and replaces Edinburgh teammate Duhan van de Merwe, who is named among the replacements. James Lang and Chris Harris continue their centre partnership after playing together against Georgia.
In the pack fellow Exeter Chief Jonny Gray comes into the second row and Scarlets’ Blade Thomson is selected at number 8 and will run out on his club ground on Saturday in Llanelli.Hooker Fraser Brown is named as Vice-Captain and packs down with Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson in an unchanged front row.
Scott Cummings also retains his starting place to partner Gray in the second row.Edinburgh pair Jamie Ritchie, also a Vice Captain, and Hamish Watson make up the back-row with Thomson.
In the replacements Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele could make his Scotland debut if called into action.
Adam Hastings and van de Merwe complete the backline replacements. Townsend can also call upon the same front row of Oli Kebble, Stuart McInally and Simon Berghan as featured in against Georgia, alongside Worcester Warrior Cornell du Preez and Edinburgh’s Ben Toolis from the bench.
“As a group we are very much looking forward to finally completing our fixture against Wales and returning to play Guinness Six Nations rugby again. We were highly motivated back in March, and that extra edge has come back into our training and preparations this week.
Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend
“It’s been great to bring in quality and experience to our starting line-up with players such as Stuart, Jonny and Finn who have been involved in some high-level games in recent weeks. We were also encouraged by Blade’s display at the weekend for Scarlets, which is a timely boost given last weekend’s injury to Matt Fagerson.
“We are expecting a physical battle against a very good side, one which we will be working hard to stay in the fight and to finish the fight in Llanelli. Ultimately, this game provides an opportunity for us to end this extended championship on a positive note and go into the Autumn Nations Cup with some added belief in what this group of players can achieve.”
Wales XV announced for 6 Nations finale v Scotland.
Jones levelled the record last weekend but will take the honour for himself at Parc y Scarlets this weekend as Wales face Scotland in their re-arranged Guinness Six Nations finale (14.15 KO BBC & S4C).
At the other end of the international spectrum, Cardiff Blues back-row Shane Lewis-Hughes will make his first test appearance for Wales in a back-row alongside experienced Lions duo Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.
European Champion and English Premiership winner Tomas Francis comes into the front-row alongside Rhys Carre and Ryan Elias.
In the backline Gareth Davies partners Dan Biggar with Owen Watkin coming into the midfield alongside Jonathan Davies.
Liam Williams returns to the back-three to feature alongside Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny.
On the bench Sam Parry, Wyn Jones and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row replacements with Cory Hill and James Davies completing the forward contingent. Lloyd Williams comes straight into the matchday squad and provides backline cover along with Rhys Patchell and Nick Tompkins.
Issued by WRU