A day after New Zealand unveiled their thirty-six man squad, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell announced his forty-man squad for this summer tour. It is a daunting fixture given the three test matches and two potentially testing fixtures against the Maori All Blacks on June 29th and July 12th. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the winners and the losers from this selection.
Five players miss out on the summer tour due to injury. These include Leinster Rugby hooker Rónan Kelleher, Ulster Rugby back three player Robert Baloucoune, Munster Rugby’s Andrew Conway and Chris Farrell. Baloucoune’s injury against the Stormers is a shame given the form that the Fermanagh native was in during the postseason.
Five new arrivals to the squad. Connacht’s Cian Prendergast who has been so impressive this past season gets the official callup, the player spent time with the national squad during Guinness Six Nations campaign so his inclusion should be no surprise to anyone.
Leinster Rugby’s contingent Ciaran Frawley, second row prospect Joe McCarthy and Jimmy O’Brien also are going to New Zealand along with Munster Rugby’s Jeremy Loughman.
The nucleus of the squad which performed well in the November series and Guinness Six Nations campaign are retained. Mike Lowry, Tadhg Beirne and James Lowe all make the trip despite sustaining injuries during the postseason. The expectation was that there would be no significant squad revamp and so it has proven.
Ten jersey succession plan – a work in progress
The successor to Johnny Sexton remains uncertain given this squad selection. Jack Carty is sidelined (wrist) and one assumed that Billy Burns fresh from a solid Ulster Rugby URC campaign would be on the plane to New Zealand.
Management have thought different and have gone for Joey Carbery and Harry Byrne which surprises me given the player’s distinct lack of game time for Leinster Rugby in recent weeks. Byrne and Carbery will get reps at ten during the Maori All Blacks games and this will decide who may potentially start either the second or third test in the series.
Ciaran Frawley may come into the picture from a ten or full back position perspective during this tour. His versatility is superb. Yes, he is named as a three quarter but the player can fill multiple back line positions and do not be surprised if Frawley becomes the success of this tour and propels himself up the depth chart at ten.
Joe McCarthy’s call up is an extraordinary progression through the ranks. McCarthy is so well regarded within Leinster Rugby and Irish management here could not pass up the opportunity to evaluate the second row prospect. These two Maori All Black fixtures will see McCarthy get game time and may potentially get game time in either the second or third test match in this series.
Dave Heffernan gets a recall to the national squad once more. A glorious opportunity to impress Andy Farrell and get in the reckoning for RWC 2023 inclusion. This tour will make Heffernan and Connacht Rugby will be the chief recipient of this when the new season starts.
Jeremy Loughman’s inclusion was a surprise to me personally given Loughman’s game time this season with his province. Kilcoyne and Wycherley were the starting picks for Munster Rugby. Loughman will get starts against the Maori All Blacks so it is an opportunity the player must take with both hands. Solid operator and super skill set.
Ross Molony. A player talked about as a potential call up to this squad, the Leinster Rugby second row is not included in this squad selection. A disappointing end to the season given the misses in Champions Cup and URC postseason. If Joe McCarthy impresses, then Molony may suddenly find himself under pressure to get significant game minutes when Jason Jenkins arrives to the province next season.
Jack O’Donoghue. Munster Rugby’s most consistent forward in this campaign misses out. O’Donoghue was presumably fighting for a squad berth against Nick Timoney and the Ulster Rugby player has edged this battle given his impressive end of season run. O’Donoghue is still a live option as he provides versatility across the back row but it will be a disappointment for the Waterford native.
Ulster back three options. Several players put up the hand for inclusion late into the season. McCloskey had a strong postseason for Ulster Rugby.
McIlroy and Moore had good cameos in the playoffs provide plenty of pace and skill to create tries. Nathan Doak as well is a missed opportunity. His versatility to slot either as scrum-half and ten would be noteworthy.
Doak will be required come RWC 2023 and I think Andy Farrell has missed a trick not bringing Doak on this summer tour.
- Maori All Blacks vs. Ireland in Hamilton on June 29th at 8:05am Irish time.
- First Test – New Zealand vs. Ireland in Eden Park, Auckland on July 2nd at 8:05am Irish time.
- Second Test – New Zealand vs. Ireland in Dunedin on July 9th at 8:05am Irish time.
- Maori All Blacks vs. Ireland in Wellington on July 12th at 8:05am Irish time.
- Third Test – New Zealand vs. Ireland in Wellington on July 16th at 8:05am Irish time.
This tour will make or break several Irish players on this tour and I suspect come the end of this summer tour, Andy Farrell and management will have a good idea who their go to players will be for RWC 2023 (injuries aside). The tour schedule looks daunting. There are no easy games here and Ireland will need to be on the front foot from minute one in Hamilton. I am intrigued to see how this squad fares!