IRELAND COACH JOE SCHMIDT will name a large squad [28 or 29 players] for his first overseas tour, later today.
Ireland will play two Test matches against Argentina in June and Schmidt is expected to include captain Paul O’Connell while giving a couple of experienced, if overworked, players some time off.
We asked two of our rugby writers to analyse what Ireland will be seeking to achieve in Argentina and look at the fringe players that may be given a chance to add to a winning team.
An end of season tour to Argentina, coming so close to a World Cup season, would often be a good excuse to rest up key players but no senior man will be willing to give up his jersey. Still, looking to the medium term, Jonathan Sexton has been flat-out for 19 of the past 20 months. Pat McCarry is resting the out-half and letting Ian Madigan and Paddy Jackson test themselves against hostile opposition in what is sure to be a white-hot environment.
Cian Healy, he believes, should rest up his ankles but O’Connell’s presence is vital on tour and, with Brian O’Driscoll retired, Gordon D’Arcy needs to travel so a new midfield partnership can begin to take shape. Simon Zebo travels as a wing and fullback option while Ulster’s Jared Payne should travel to train with the squad ahead of his confirmation as Ireland-qualified at the beginning of next season. Jordi Murphy to deputise for Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien to revert to blindside.
Pat McCarry’s squad:
FORWARDS: Jack McGrath, Dave Kilcoyne, Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Marty Moore, Mike Ross, Rodney Ah You; Paul O’Connell, Iain Henderson, Devin Toner; Sean O’Brien, Tommy O’Donnell, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip, Jordi Murphy.BACKS: Conor Murray, Kieran Marmion; Ian Madigan, Paddy Jackson; Dave Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe; Darren Cave, Gordon D’Arcy, Robbie Henshaw, Fergus McFadden; Rob Kearney, Simon Zebo [and Jared Payne].
Sean Farrell has good news for nine of the Ulster players that missed out on a place in this season’s Pro12 final. Mark Anscombe’s men were edged out 13-9 by Leinster but many will content themselves with finally winning silverware with Ireland this season. Dan Tuohy and Chris Henry are included in his 29-man squad, and Payne is also named as a non-playing squad member.
He also includes the Munster duo of Stephen Archer [a player who has been unfortunate with injury this season] and JJ Hanrahan. Sexton and Healy get summer breaks.
Sean Farrell’s squad:
FORWARDS: Jack McGrath, Dave Kilcoyne, Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Marty Moore, Stephen Archer, Paul O’Connell, Iain Henderson, Dan Tuohy,, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip, Jordi Murphy, Robbie Diack.BACKS: Conor Murray, Kieran Marmion, Paddy Jackson, Ian Madigan, JJ Hanrahan, Gordon D’Arcy, Robbie Henshaw, Darren Cave, Rob Kearney, Simon Zebo, Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe [and Jared Payne for the spin.]
Who do you think Joe Schmidt should take to Argentina?