Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has announced his thirty-seven man squad for the Six Nations. The marquee headline is the inclusion of Ulster Rugby’s Mike Lowry and Connacht Rugby’s Mack Hansen. Hawkeye Sidekick runs the rule over the selection.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Given how well the November international series went for Ireland, squad selection for the Six Nations tournament was plenty routine with precious few surprises. The usual suspects feature. The full squad is as follows:
Loosehead: Andrew Porter, Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne
It is hard to argue on these selections. Porter and Healy continue to push each other to new heights while Kilcoyne has performed well for Munster Rugby this term.
Hookers: Rónan Kelleher, Dan Sheehan, Rob Herring
A position very much up for grabs. The three players here will be eyeing up game time so the team to face Wales will be eagerly anticipated. The competition should be fierce so expecting good performances from this position in the tournament. Lineout execution key.
Tighthead: Tadhg Furlong, Finlay Bealham, Tom O’Toole
Furlong if fit is an automatic first choice. The key question here is who is his backup? Bealham and O’Toole are evenly matched. O’Toole needs game time in this tournament to run the rule over the player. Bealham is a solid operator at scrum time and in open field. I can see both backups getting appearances in this tournament.
Second rows: Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Kieran Treadwell, Ryan Baird
A very competitive second row unit squad here. Treadwell inclusion over Dillane. Is news of Dillane’s move away from Ireland a deciding factor here? Treadwell is a quality player, massive work rate but I do not see where he gets game time here unless the four in front of them succumb to injury. Henderson is a welcome inclusion but fitness concerns here? Quality names here.
Back rows: Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony, Nick Timoney, Gavin Coombes
It is great to see Nick Timoney in this squad selection. Timoney has performed superbly well for Ulster Rugby this season particularly in European action and should get game time in the tournament. Leinster Rugby and Munster Rugby back row options speak for themselves. Doris, Conan and van der Flier are standouts at the moment and could start the Welsh test match.
Scrum-halves: Jamison Gibson-Park, Conor Murray, Craig Casey
Interesting to see the selection for Wales. Gibson-Park is an obvious favorite of Farrell for his speed and tempo. Casey prominent for Munster Rugby this season albeit the province has struggled for attacking cohesion. Murray has seen precious little rugby this term but his experience will be huge when faced against England and France. Nathan Doak must be on the radar here. John Cooney and Kieran Marmion looking from the outside here. Marmion has been in great form for Connacht Rugby this season.
Out-halves: Johnny Sexton (captain), Joey Carbery, Jack Carty
It is great to see Jack Carty back in the national setup, playing superbly well. Steve Borthwick was quick to praise the player last weekend in round three of the European Rugby Champions Cup. He could get game time when Joey Carbery still injured. Sexton if fit will start against Wales but there are injury concerns here. The Byrne brothers could feature yet before the tournament is out if injury woes strike Sexton early in this tourney. The Munster Rugby ten options need time to bed in with their provinces before being seriously considered for senior national callups.
Centres: Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, James Hume
Chris Farrell loses out. The lack of attacking flair shown by Munster Rugby in recent weeks has cost him a squad berth. Henshaw is an automatic selection. Hume’s form with ball in hand continues to excite and setup attacking opportunities for his back three at Ulster Rugby. Aki and Ringrose playing superbly well. Farrell will need to perform for Munster Rugby to get back into Andy Farrell’s thoughts.
Back threes: Hugo Keenan, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Robert Baloucoune, Jordan Larmour, Mack Hansen, Mike Lowry
Hansen and Lowry possess enormous attacking potential. Lowry is so versatile. The Banbridge clubman can play either at ten or full-back, something to think about if the ten squad depth becomes tight. Hansen has burst onto the URC stage, spectacular attacking plays. The defensive side of the ball is a work in progress but will benefit from an extended period in the national camp.
Robert Baloucoune’s form is sensational, would love to see him get extended game time but the competition in the back three is stacked. Keenan will be full back. Earls, Larmour, Conway will be also eyeing up the eleven and fourteen jerseys.
Development player: Cian Prendergast
No more than the Connacht Rugby player deserves after some superb performances in recent months. A versatile back row, a player with enormous physicality and power defensively and with ball in hand. His breakdown work is excellent. This camp will be a superb experience for the player. Connacht Rugby will be better for this experience for a player who they can build a side around for years to come!