Andy Farrell announces the Ireland squad for the South African summer tour

A squad selection which was brought forward saw tried and trusted (predominantly) given the nod. Andy Farrell though gave recognition for end of the season with three uncapped players added to the travelling party. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the winners and the losers from today’s announcement.

Winners

The three uncapped players will be delighted with their international squad call ups. Cormac Izuchukwu is a deserved call up to the back row unit depth chart. The Ulster Rugby player has had a terrific end to the URC season and his all action performances could not be ignored.

Jamie Osborne given his extended game minutes at the business end of the season for Leinster Rugby is not a genuine surprise. The player continues to develop at pace; his overall game has evolved this term. A player looking to make the right impression for potentially the Autumn international series more so than this arduous summer tour given how stacked the three quarters look on this tour.

Sam Prendergast’s name on the touring party is the real headline grabber. Andy Farrell by selecting the player has directly challenged the Leinster Rugby management to fast-track the player’s development next season with more regular game minutes next term.

Prendergast has massive potential. His skill set is not in doubt but what is questioned right now is his physicality and defensive side of the ball. Farrell likes the player and Leinster Rugby’s ten jersey for next season got more interesting.

It was a superb day for the Prendergast family with the announcement of Cian also travelling on the summer tour. Cian Prendergast has been a consistent top performer for Connacht Rugby this season. He has taken the World Cup omission in a positive manner and delivered some excellent performances with his province. The back row unit is stacked but he is in the touring party to make a positive impact.

Losers

Where do you start? The scrum-half selection will stir debate. The experience of Conor Murray, the youthful exuberance of Craig Casey and speed merchant that is Caoilin Blade are the options as Jamison Gibson-Park sits out the tour due to a hamstring injury.

John Cooney and Nathan Doak looking from outside in again and one wonders if Farrell has made a call on both players. Doak personally has plenty to offer this side from a nine and ten jersey perspective. Cooney presumably is now off the selection radar now after this latest omission.

Munster Rugby pack personnel will be disappointed. Gavin Coombes appears not to be in the plans of Andy Farrell. John Hodnett misses out in a competitive back row depth chart. His variation to others would have benefited the touring party but management have gone for physicality over speed.

Mack Hansen fails to make the touring party. His shoulder injury continues to pose issues. The hope is that Hansen gets back for preseason fully fit. The length of the layoff though is a concern and one that Andy Farrell and management will be casting a concerned eye on.

Ross and Harry Byrne are omitted from the squad. The inclusion of Sam Prendergast should a reality check for both players that the ten jersey may have taken a decisive twist. Jack Conan was not considered for selection but one would imagine the player fits right back into Farrell’s plan come next Autumn.

Overall Assessment

Quite the settled Ireland squad announced. This tour will require Ireland to be on point in all aspects of play. The hope is that Ireland can vary the game plan sufficiently to unsettle this South African side.

The full touring party will be asked to put in a shift particularly in the pack unit given the expected abrasiveness. Farrell has kept faith with the World Cup squad looking for more test match series glory on foreign soil but this South African tour looks a beast!

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