The depth of talent in Irish rugby is at its best ever. Barring a couple of standouts (Murray, Sexton, Furlong), every position has a player of equal ability ready to step in. This is an Irish XV made of some of
Loosehead Prop: Peter Dooley
The Offaly man was probably the one who benefited most from Andrew Porter’s switch to tighthead. Should have much more opportunities to show his ability and challenge Cian Healy now that Jack Mac’s move north has been finalised.
Hooker: Rhys MarshallEmbed from Getty Images
A residency pick; Marshall is Irish qualified in this year. Has all the standard hooker skills, plus a cultured boot and surprising pace. Adam McBurney and Ronan Kelleher are two other young promising players that need more provincial gametime.
Tighthead Prop: Tom O’Toole
Tom O’Toole is a beast. Only 20 years old but is a certain Irish international in the future. A monstrous scrummager for a guy so inexperiencedEmbed from Getty Images
Second Row: Fineen Wycherley
The man from west Cork is still very young but is making his presence but he doesnt let it hold him back, having already made 6 appearances for MunsterEmbed from Getty Images
Second Row: Ross MolonyEmbed from Getty Images
Thought of by many as Leo Cullen 2.0, the Leinster man is already a leader in the pack, and has captained his province several times.
Blindside: Caelan DorisEmbed from Getty Images
The latest product of Leinster’s never ending back row supply, the Mayo man is a number 8 by trade,
Openside: Nick TimoneyEmbed from Getty Images
Number 8: Max DeeganEmbed from Getty Images
An Ireland cap is surely not far away for Max Deegan. Formerly U20 player of the year, Deegan has one of the most complete skill sets of any back row forward in the country, and will soon overtake Jack Conan if he continues on the way he is going.
Scrum-half: Caolin BladeEmbed from Getty Images
The Connacht 9 has a similar style to his teammate Kieran Marmion; both are small, fast, and lively threat around the ruck. Blade has taken more of a leadership role in Connacht this season, captaining the side for the first time in the last few weeks.
Out-Half: Billy BurnsEmbed from Getty Images
Ulster’s new arrival, Burns hasn’t been setting the world alight like his teammate Will Addison, but he’s keeping Ulster ticking over well, and showing flashes of brilliance as he settled in more, some beautiful cross-kicks against Racing coming to mind. He may not be individually flashy, but he brings his teammates into the game well, and is forming a solid partnership with John Cooney.
Wing: Rob Lyttle
One thing they do well up north is a winger, and Lyttle is the latest example. Quick, decent in the air, and has a good step. Having played under two of Ireland’s greatest ever wingers at Ulster, and having one of the country’s best ever broken-field runners at his club will have done great things for his development. Has had his injury troubles but could be a star for Ulster within a few years.Embed from Getty Images
Inside Centre: JJ HanrahanEmbed from Getty Images
Generally deployed at 10 for Munster, the Kerryman spent a lot of his time at Northampton playing at first centre, and is very capable there, seeming to flourish when given less responsibility than the 10 jersey
Outside Centre: Tom FarrellEmbed from Getty Images
Farrell has been outstanding for Connacht ever since he arrived, a constant source of go-forward in the Connacht backline. One of the players most deserving of an Ireland cap, but unlikely to get one barring an injury crisis.
Wing: Barry DalyEmbed from Getty Images
Daly got his chance last season and grabbed it with both hands. Great in the air, and stronger than he looks, Daly’s claim to fame is he is the fastest player in the Leinster squad, and indeed in Irish rugby. Daly has not gone unnoticed by Joe Schmidt; he spent time in Ireland camp around the Six Nations ;ast year year
Full-Back: Michael LowryEmbed from Getty Images
Lowry has been given some serious responsibility this season for Ulster. Injuries saw Will Addison move to outside centre, so Lowry got the nod for Ulster’s opening Champion’s Cup games. Lowry looked at home on the biggest stage in club rugby. Ulster’s answer to Jordan Larmour, the 20 year old is a livewire in attack, with dancing feet and speed. For a young player, he’s very composed, and is competent defensively for such an inexperienced player in what is probably the most important defensive position
Double Injury Blow for Leinster
Leinster have been handed two big injuries to two of their key men as they head into the Christmas period
Leinster have confirmed that star fly-half Johnny Sexton has suffered a medial tear in his right knee, while Ronan Kelleher has also had an injury set-back.
Sexton, who went off injured during Leinster’s 43-16 victory over Northampton Saints last Saturday, underwent scans on his knee yesterday and saw a specialist who revealed that he will miss between 6 and 8 weeks of action.
However, his injury causes a slight selection headache for new head coach Andy Farrell, who at this moment is without Sexton and Joey Carbery, but the latter is expected to return from injury later this month.
Although Sexton’s injury is a big blow, it could open the door once again for Connacht’s Jack Carty to get a run in the Irish line-up, while Leinster teammate Ross Byrne will take the reigns at club-level and with the form he is currently in, will fancy his chances of getting a call up to the national team having missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad.
The injury also means that Sexton will miss all three of Leinster’s remaining Champions Cup pool fixtures as well as their three inter-provincial derbies over the coming month, with Byrne expected to be backed up by younger brother Harry and Ciaran Frawley.
Although the bad news for both Leinster and Ireland doesn’t stop there with upcoming star hooker Ronan Kelleher expected to be side-lined for a period with a possible fractured hand, which he is thought to have suffered during last weekend’s game.
It is thought that Kelleher was in poll position to earn his first call-up to the Irish side for the Six Nations after a blistering start to the season, but this may now dampen his hopes.
Sean Cronin is believed to be nearing full-fitness once more, which would be a boost for both club and country as he could slot in seamlessly.
The injuries are piling-up for Leinster, who will also miss centre Joe Tomane for the same period as Sexton through a hamstring injury, while Rory O’Loughlin will miss this weekend’s game with injury.
James Ryan is also making his way through the back to play protocols after taking a knock to the head against the Saints, but could feature this Saturday.
Leinster will hope that their squad can cope with the set-backs as they head into this weekend’s home fixture against Northampton, with younger stars now having the chance to lay a marker as the province look to make it 11 wins from 11 at the start of the season.
Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game
Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province
The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury.
The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year.
As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side.
The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend.
However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem.
In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win.
Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.
All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year Confirmed
The All Blacks have had an off-colour year compared to their usual high standards but there were some stand-out performers and the players have cast their vote on their player of the year
New Zealand back-rower Ardie Savea has been announced as the All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year for 2019.
However, despite all the downsides there were some stand-out performances and Savea has stood out among his peers for his showings this year beating fellow teammates Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read, Codie Taylor and Anton Lienert-Brown to the award.
It brings Savea’s year to a bright ending after also being pipped to the World Player of the Year award by Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit last month. Although Savea will miss a chunk of the 2020 season having confirmed he will undergo surgery on a knee problem which will leave him side-lined for between four to six months.
Meanwhile, in the women’s voting Charmaine McMenamin came out on top as the Players’ International Player of the Year.
The New Zealand Rugby 2019 awards take place on Thursday with both Savea and McMenamin up for the Player of the Year award going up against Beauden Barrett and Lienert-Brown, and Black Ferns’ Kendra Cocksedge and Ayesha Leti-l’iga respectively.
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