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6 Nations

Ireland’s 6 Nations Squad: The Talking Points

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Joe Schmidt named his squad for the opening rounds of the Six Nations on Wednesday. While it was full of mostly familiar faces, there were some new caps, and some interesting talking points raised.

Scrum-Half Trouble

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Luke McGrath was helped from the field during the second half of Leinster’s win over Toulouse with what appeared to be a serious looking knee issue. Kieran Marmion is still rehabilitating after surgery on his ankle. This leaves the very talented but also quite green at international level John Cooney, and the uncapped Caoilin Blade. Cooney has won 4 caps so far, not against high-level opposition. He has been a revelation for Ulster, his ‘petit general’ style of play, and clutch goal-kicking has won Ulster several games. He is probably the closest in style of play to Conor Murray out of all the backup nines. Caoilin Blade is the only player to be involved in every game for Connacht this season, and in the opinion of many has moved ahead of Kieran Marmion. He plays a similar snappy game to Marmion and has even captained Connacht in the Challenge Cup. Blade is well deserving of his call-up, but it is more likely to be Cooney that gets the number 21 jersey.

A New 10

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The most surprising exclusion in the squad was probably the Leinster out-half. Byrne made his long-awaited international debut in Chicago this November after his stellar 2017-2018 season. The King of the Crosskick was Leo Cullen’s deputy of choice for Johnny Sexton and saw Leinster through a number of important games. While he has not performed at the same level this season, he put in a good display against Toulouse in the RDS, marking it with the usual crosskick assist. But what of his replacement in the Ireland squad, Jack Carty? The Connacht 10 is having the season of his life. Carty has been playing with a new lease of life, as has the rest of the Connacht backline, since the change in coaching this summer. Why has Schmidt chosen to call him up now though?

The reason may lie in the difference in quality between the forward packs of Leinster and Connacht. The mark of a great 10 is the ability to play their own game behind a pack that’s under pressure and on the back foot, and Carty regularly has to deal with that. Ross Byrne plays behind a pack full of internationals week in week out, and gets an armchair ride from his forwards. Schmidt wants a 10 that’s used to playing under pressure, and Carty has been, and doing it well.

Tom Farrell

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Tom Farrell is the form centre in Irish rugby at the moment. The Connacht man has had a meteoric rise since being brought in as injury cover, winning Fan’s Player of the Year last season and forming a solid partnership with Bundee Aki. Equally adept at 12 or 13, something that could stand to him travelling to Japan this September. Farrell has all the attributes you need, pace, a strong passing game, and defensively rock solid. As of now Farrell is probably fourth or fifth choice centre, behind Ringrose, Henshaw, Aki, and probably Chris Farrell.

Will Joe roll the dice on selections?

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Historically the Six Nations is not a place for experimentation, but a World Cup year is different. Last year we saw some rotation against Italy; Jack Conan started at number 8, with CJ Stander on the bench, and James Ryan rested. Jordan Larmour made his debut off the bench in the same game. Any rotation is likely to come on the bench: Will Addison will probably get some time in the 23 jersey, Tadhg Beirne may get a start in the second row.
It would also be a good idea to bring on the replacement halfbacks earlier in play. Joey will be the replacement for most of the games, and would be beneficial for him to come into a game in the balance with around 20 minutes to go, likewise for the scrum-halves, whoever that may be in the 21 jersey. Tactically, you would imagine someone with the vast playbook of Joe Schmidt won’t show his full hand. It’s all about the mind games

Full-Back

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Rob Kearney is injured, and there is no update on when he will return at time of writing. Jordan Larmour played full-back against Argentina last November and against Australia last summer so has some credit in the bank.

Will Addison however is the likely candidate to start if Rob doesn’t come back. Ireland’s defensive system relies on Kearney covering the entirety of the backfield himself, which allows the wingers to take spot in the defensive line. Jordan Larmour doesn’t yet have the defensive nous to do this to the required level, so it will likely be Will Addison running out against England on February 1st.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting campaign with lots more talking points to come.

6 Nations

Fitzgerald Stunned by One Players Ireland Omission

Former Ireland and Leinster star Luke Fitzgerald has admitted his disbelief at one players’ shock omission from Ireland’s Six Nations squad

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Former Ireland and Leinster back Luke Fitzgerald is stunned by Rhys Ruddock’s omission from Andy Farrell’s Six Nations squad.

The new head coach named his first squad last week and despite naming a total of six back-rows among the squad, Ruddock is not one of them and while speaking on the Independent.ie’s rugby podcast, The Left Wing, Fitzgerald admitted he is “astonished”. 

“I thought it was an amazing omission. I thought it was a stinker. I thought it was a complete cop-out. He is the easy guy to drop. He was one of our only good players out at the World Cup. He has been excellent for Leinster for a very long period of time and even though he has had a few injuries and might not always be picked because Leinster rotate him, he is always picked for the big games when he is fit. He is a captain, so he is a leader in there as well. I just don’t get,” he said. 

Ruddock’s form has been at a high-level for some time now and was seen by many as a shining light during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign last year. 

However, Ruddock’s Leinster team-mates Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan and Caelan Doris were joined in the squad by Munster trio CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony and Jack O’Donoghue as the back-row options. 

Fitzgerald believes that maybe head coach Farrell is looking for something different in his back-row options and that Ruddock doesn’t fit the bill, but still can’t understand his decision. 

“People see the game differently. I find that one really hard to understand but look, it shows you that people can focus in on small parts of someone’s game and that is obviously what has cost him. It baffles me but they are obviously looking at something and saying that other players do that better but I find it astonishing,” he added. 

Fitzgerald was among many to suggest that Ruddock could be an option as a potential Ireland captain before the announcement and his omission doesn’t seem to have gone down well amongst fans. 

However, for now Ruddock isn’t in the squad, and it remains to be seen if he will be brought in if there are any injuries. The Ireland squad are currently preparing for their opening Six Nations game against Scotland on Saturday February 1st, while Ruddock remains in the Leinster squad.

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6 Nations

Jones Drops 10 for Six Nations Squad

England head coach Eddie Jones has named his Six Nations squad and has left out 10 players that were involved in the recent Rugby World Cup

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England head coach Eddie Jones has confirmed his 34-man strong squad for the upcoming Six Nations campaign, but has dropped 10 players from his recent Rugby World Cup campaign.

Of the absentees Saracens No 8 Billy Vunipola is the biggest name to miss out following the news that he will be injured for the entire tournament through injury. 

Other big hitters to be excluded are Joe Cokanasiga, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, and veteran Dan Cole. 

However, in their absence there is a total of eight uncapped players set to be involved in Tom Dunn, Ollie Thorley, Ben Earl, Jacob Umaga, Alex Moon, George Furbank, Fraser Dingwell and Will Stuart. 

Speaking on their selection Jones admitted that they all have a chance of playing, but that he wanted them to at least be amongst the squad as they build towards the future. 

“It is always about winning the next game so we have picked the best squad available. At the same time we wanted to bring some young players in because we need to keep building our depth so for those new players it is an exciting opportunity for them,” he said. 

Meanwhile, there is also the inclusion of Josh Hodge and Alex Mitchell, who have been named as apprentices for the campaign and will be training with the first-team squad. 

Elsewhere, it is the familiar faces that make-up the squad with the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi among the experienced players. 

With expectation building following their run to the World Cup final last year, Jones has confirmed that the team remain focused on one task and that is their opening game against France in a couple of weeks. 

“The Guinness Six Nations for us is all about raising the standards in terms of the way we prepare, tactically and physically how we play the game, and the way we come together off the field. But our first task is beating France in France and that is the only game we need to worry about. We will begin our preparations in Portugal, get a bit of sun, some warm conditions and get ourselves physically and mentally right for the game. The first three days will be about getting organised. We have got players from 11 clubs so we need to get everyone on the same page quickly, spend a lot of time working on our togetherness and then by Tuesday next week we are in Test preparation for France,” he added. 

England will be hoping to continue their fine form that saw them pick up silver medals at the tournament in Japan and with some exciting young players having an opportunity things are looking good for Jones and his men. 

Check Out the Full 34-Man Squad Below.

Forwards:

Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 21 caps)

Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 19 caps)

Tom Dunn (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)

Ben Earl (Saracens, uncapped)

Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)

Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 14 caps)

Jamie George (Saracens, 45 caps)

Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap)

Maro Itoje (Saracens, 34 caps)

George Kruis (Saracens, 41 caps)

Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 62 caps)

Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 81 caps)

Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 6 caps)

Joe Marler (Harlequins, 68 caps)

Alex Moon (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 31 caps)

Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, uncapped)

Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 15 caps)

Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 58 caps)

Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 18 caps)

Backs:

Elliot Daly (Saracens, 39 caps)

Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs, 1 cap)

Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

Owen Farrell (Saracens, 79 caps)

George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 65 caps)

George Furbank (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 9 caps)

Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 47 caps)

Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 52 caps)

Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)

Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 40 caps)

Jacob Umaga (Wasps, uncapped)

Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 42 caps)

Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 95 caps)

Apprentice players:

Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)

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6 Nations

Farrell Names Ireland’s Six Nations Squad

New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has confirmed a 35-man strong squad ahead of the upcoming Six Nations campaign

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New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named his first Six Nations squad ahead of the upcoming campaign with some uncapped players set to be involved.

There is a total of five uncapped players within the squad, while Farrell and his coaching staff have included a further four development players that will train with the senior squad. 

Of the uncapped players three come from Leinster in the form of Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Ronan Kelleher, while the other two are Billy Burns and Tom O’Toole from Ulster

All of the five have been in blistering form so far this season, helping Leinster and Ulster to first and second in Conference A of the PRO14 respectively. 

Meanwhile, Leinster’s Will Connors, Harry Byrne and Ryan Baird are joined by Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune in the development programme which will see the quartet train with the squad in Portugal in the lead up to the opening round of the tournament. 

Speaking on the selections Farrell admitted that he has been impressed by the players that attended a “stock take” last month, but has told players that their places are not guaranteed throughout the entire tournament.

“As we progress through the Championship we will look to select sides that we believe are best suited to the task at the weekend. We will keep a close eye on the provincial performances in the PRO14 not just for the players in the squad that will transition back for game minutes but also for those players that were part of the wider selection discussions over the past few weeks,” he said. 

Elsewhere, Johnny Sexton has been named as captain following the retirement of Rory Best following the Rugby World Cup in Japan and Farrell believes that he is the perfect man for the job. 

“We have appointed Johnny as captain for the Six Nations Championship, you can see what it means to him and the enthusiasm he will bring to the role. He has been developing as a leader for a number of years with Ireland, Leinster and the Lions and he will be a positive voice for the group,” he added. 

There is a return to test rugby for Devin Toner, who was left out of that squad that travelled to Japan, with his replacement Jean Kleyn not being selected. Ultan Dillane is also back as a second-row option alongside stars Iain Henderson and James Ryan. 

However, despite his excellent form for Leinster Jamison Gibson-Park is not selected, with John Cooney, Luke McGrath and Conor Murray being preferred in the scrum-half department. 

Along with Gibson-Park Ulster fans will be unhappy to see centre Stuart McCloskey miss out after his fine form this season to date, with Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose getting the nod ahead of him. 

The rest of the squad is as you would expect with regular players involved. 

Ireland will be hoping to get off to the perfect start in the championship when they host Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday February 1st and fans will be excited to see how many youngsters get a chance in what is the start of a new era for Irish Rugby. 

Check Out the Full 35-Man Squad Below. 

Forwards (19):

Max Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 0 caps

Caelan Doris (UCD/Leinster) 0 caps

Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht) 14 caps

Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 41 caps

Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 95 caps

Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 1 cap

Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 53 caps

Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 8 caps

Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster) 0 caps

Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 36 caps

Jack McGrath (St Mary’s College/Ulster) 56 caps

Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster) 2 caps

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

Tom O’Toole (Banbridge/Ulster) 0 caps

Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 38 caps

Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 67 caps

Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

Backs (16):

Will Addison (Enniskillen/Ulster) 4 caps

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 23 caps

Billy Burns (Ulster) 0 caps

Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 3 caps

Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 18 caps

John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 8 caps

Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 82 caps

Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 9 caps

Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 40 caps

Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 19 caps

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

Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 19 caps

Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 78 caps

Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 28 caps

Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 88 caps CAPTAIN

Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 25 caps

Development Players:

Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)

Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ulster)

Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster)

Will Connors (UCD/Leinster).

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