Handy Andy’s Irish Pick – 6N Round 2

For all the clamour from fans and pundits, Andy Farrell presumably has got November seeding on his mind in balancing experience against development in his squad for Round 2.

Largely it’s as you were for most of the players.  Caelan Doris is out with a HIA, and Garry Ringrose is not available until Round 4.  So in comes Henshaw in the 13 jersey, and Doris’ Leinster counterpart, Max Deegan, comes onto the backrow slot on the bench.   Murray is trusted with the 9 jersey once again, with Cooney backing up.   And it’s Keith Earls who gets the 23 jersey to cover the back three – Addison has to wait patiently.

Dave Kilcoyne is picked for the bench again despite going off with a HIA, but he’s on a proviso of having to pass his final HIA protocols on Thurs, if not, he’ll be replaced – presumably by Jack McGrath.

Will Connors, a Leinster academy backrower, has been added to the senior squad with Doris out of action.

Players are talking about a more open atmosphere in training, not living in fear of not knowing their role/details, and that Farrell is fostering a better talking environment for players/coaches to discuss plays, scenarios, tactics.

Even though Ireland is at home, and that counts for something, I only rate their chances at best as 50/50 – still a lot to get their mojo back and conviction in any new systems and plays.


Larmour, Conway, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale, Sexton, Murray

Healy, Herring, Furlong, Henderson, Ryan, POM, vdF, Stander

Reps: Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Porter, Toner, Deegan, Cooney, Byrne, Earls.




Ireland 6N Squad – Farrell’s Fusiliers

Andy Farrell has announced his first Six Nations squad:

LH Props (3) – Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath
TH Props (3) Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Tom O’Toole*
Hookers (3) – Dave Heffernan, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher*
Locks (4) – James Ryan, Devin Toner, Iain Henderson, Ultan Dillane.
Backrowers (6) – Jack O’Donoghue, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris*, Max Deegan*, Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander.
Scrum-halves (3) – Conor Murray, John Cooney, Luke McGrath.
Out-halves (3) – Johnny Sexton (C), Ross Byrne, Billy Burns*.
Centres (4) – Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Chris Farrell.
Wings  (4) – Dave Kearney, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Jacob Stockdale

Full-backs (2) Jordan Larmour, Will Addison.
Development players (4) – Will Connors*, Harry Byrne*, Ryan Baird*, Robert Baloucoune*.

Farrell has added four players that he want to be part of the test squad environment- what he has termed Development Players – Will Connors, a young Leinster backrow tyro whose tackle rate in his few matches this season raised a lot of eyebrows.   Ryan Baird – former U20s lock with Leinster, who is dubbed as the new James Ryan – or his test partner within the next couple of years.   Harry Byrne, the 20-year old younger brother of Ross Byrne – also at Leinster – who looks like he might be better than the older brother.   And Robert Baloucoune, an Ireland 7s player, playing on the wing in Ulster’s senior squad and a real flyer.

To bring in all these players, Farrell has dropped from selection or not considered:

Rob Kearney, Sean Cronin, Rhys Ruddock, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Jean Kleyn, Finlay Bealham, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty.

Disappointed hopefuls include: Mike Haley*, Jamison Gibson-Park*, Rhys Marshall*, Stuart McCloskey, Marty Moore, JJ Hanrahan*, Caolin Blade*.

Injured players Carbery, Leavy, Conan, Beirne, and Roux are on the long-term injury list.  Kleyn may join them once results of a neck scan today are known.

Whisper it, but could Farrell field a starting XV without a single Munster player at some point during the tournament?

F: Healy, Herring, Furlong, Ryan, Henderson, Deegan, vDF, Doris
B: Cooney, Sexton, Kearney, Aki, Ringrose, Stockdale, Larmour
Reps: Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Porter, Dillane, Stander, Murray, Byrne, Conway.

Ireland 45 Man Training Squad

So Faz Sr. has released his first training squad.

Plenty to be positive about with real competition at prop, Kelleher at hooker, Toner back in the fold, some real tyros for the back row (esp. Doris), Cooney the outstanding Irish player of the season so far, Ringrose and Larmour in fantastic form.

Delighted to see McCloskey included – he has been playing really well for Ulster and has a right to feel a little forgotten over the last few seasons.

I think not bringing Rob Kearney is the right call too – has been outstanding for Ireland over the years, but no longer represents the future. Cronin, a great hooker who would have had many many morebcaps werebit notbfor Best’s leadership is also looking at the end of international rugby. When will Sexton be seen in the same light??



After the French, come the English: Ireland awaits

Last Heineken Round 2 had four Franco-Irish matchups.   It finished with two wins for Leinster and Ulster, a loss for Connacht and a pesky draw for Munster.

Now we get two rounds of Anglo-Irish encounters with the Christmas back-to-backs:

Leinster v Northampton

Munster v Saracens

Ulster v Quins

Connacht v Gloucester

Saints host the boys in blue in a league-leader match-up.   Although most of these games have gone the way of Leinster in previous seasons, this one could be a lot more interesting.   Leinster haven’t had their full team out much this season, and a lot of the so-called ‘second-stringers’ have been pushing for a start – notably young Rónan Kelleher, the 20-ear old academy grad hooker.   Six tries to his name, ahead of his speedy brother Cian who got a double last weekend.  Still you’d expect Cullen to name mostly an experienced side and look to experiment at home the following week.

Munster have added in extra seating to Thomond Park for their game against Saracens.   They are licking their lips to have another go at the Champions for the third season in a row.

Connacht have played a blinder with 14 injuries and Andy Friend trusting the young fellas to do a job.   They performed well against Toulouse in France, and deserved their opening win at home against Montpelier.

Ulster, meanwhile, are sitting in the unusual position of having won both their opening matches, and will have the welcome flegs ready for Quins at Ravenhill.  They’ll be confident.  Hopefully not too confident.

Who’s feeling confident?  Who’s worrying and who doesn’t give a shit cos their team is not involved?


Ireland Team for Scotland


As expected, Larmour and Conway come in for Kearney and Conway.

Pretty much everyone inbIreland would put Conway at 15 and Larmour on the wing, but Joe has gone the other way around, and upon reflection, I think he has got it right as Scotland are so dangerous out wide, and Conway is perhaps a little more robust in defence – horses for courses.

Not much else to write home about…

In the absence if Toner, Hendo and Ryan in the engine room – makes for powerful scrummaging! Beirne on the bench to come in and win some loose ball.

Back row is POM vdF and Stander, Conan on the bench. I would start Conan at 8 and have Stander in reserve to cover all three, but it still works as is.

Sexton starts – Carty on the bench. Carbery keeps his blazer on.

As a sextet (starters and bench) we have one of the best front rows in the world at the moment…

Should be a goodie…

Henshaw injury – may miss RWC…

So, already the injury replacement merry-go-round speculation starts for the RWC in Japan.

Poor ould Robbie Henshaw has reportedly done his hamstring, and may be out for next week’s opener against Scotland, or worse still, for the whole tournament.

Will Addison has been tapped up as a potential replacement and was pulled out of Ulster’s pre-season friendly against Glasgow, just before kick-off.

Here is hoping it is not so bad, and Henshaw makes a speedy recovery…