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Will Connacht have more players in Andy Farrell's Ireland squad in 2021?

The latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra breaks down Connacht’s big win over Leinster.

Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, and Shane Delahunt all impressed last weekend.
Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, and Shane Delahunt all impressed last weekend.
Image: INHPO

JOE SCHMIDT OFTEN used to underline that inter-provincial games were the next best place to impress the Ireland coaches beyond the Heineken Champions Cup games that are the ultimate proving ground beneath international rugby.

Speaking last month, current Ireland boss Andy Farrell underlined that the festive inter-pros were “big games” and with the 2021 Six Nations now just five weeks away, there’s little doubt that he will be watching current events with great interest.

With that in mind, several Connacht men put their hands up during their big win against Leinster at the RDS on Saturday, as discussed by Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella on today’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – an analysis podcast available to members of The42 every Monday.

As always, questions from our members’ rugby WhatsApp group sparked much of the chat, with Ian O’Reilly asking if Connacht’s good performances will see more of their players involved under Farrell during the Six Nations, while fellow member Paddy Kelly was intrigued to know if the Ireland squad will have a different look this spring.

Last autumn, Connacht had Kieran Marmion, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan, Quinn Roux, and Bundee Aki involved on the pitch for Ireland but will hope for greater representation in 2021.

Connacht’s man of the match last weekend, Jack Carty, obviously did his Ireland chances no harm with a 25-point haul at the RDS.

“It was a sensational performance,” said Eoin. “He didn’t kick overly well off the tee and was feeling his hamstring a little bit and I was concerned he might even be replaced but he played on.

“Defensively, to get that intercept try to get Connacht in the game – it was taking a gamble but he read the cues. It was Ross Molony [the Leinster second row] at halfback and Carty felt he could pick off the pass, which he did really well.

“His kicking was was excellent. Some of those soccer-style kicks were pinpoint and even the best fullbacks in the world would have struggled to get to the pitch of the ball such was the flight he was able to put on some of those kicks.

“He was really, really impressive and he’ll be buoyed by that because it’s been a difficult season for him obviously not getting back into that Irish squad [in the latter part of the autumn campaign], so it was a big performance for him to put in and his all-round game was really, really strong.”

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caolin-blade-makes-a-break 26-year-old Caolin Blade shone for Connacht. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Eoin was also particularly impressed by Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade, flanker Conor Oliver, and hooker Shane Delahunt.

“Caolin Blade has that running threat from nine, which Luke McGrath also showed for Leinster – just having that ability to threaten the two defenders closest to the ruck and put guys through holes. I was impressed with Blade, he looks like a threat every time he has the ball and a running nine can change the momentum of games. 

“Conor Oliver typified the doggedness of the Connacht defence with 16 tackles and two turnovers and was everywhere for Connacht. Seven is such a competitive position for Ireland but it was an eye-catching performance.

“The other player I’ve liked over the last couple of weeks is Shane Delahunt. He’s got some nice catch-pass ability and looks a good size. His contact skills are super impressive and his set-piece work is coming along.

“Hooker is definitely a position that has yet to be fully nailed down from an Irish context and he’s another player that could potentially come into the mix.”

The lads highlighted a few other standout Connacht performers including Quinn Roux, the in-form Ultan Dillane, Sean Masterson, and the destructive centre pairing of Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold.

Today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra also saw Eoin and Murray discuss Leinster’s shortcomings, while they dug into Ulster’s 15-10 victory over Munster in Belfast.

And there were questions from members on each province’s New Year’s resolutions, Munster’s restart woes, and whether Leinster are in danger of being caught cold due to their usual Pro14 dominance.

You can sign up as a member of The42 here in order to listen to the extra rugby podcasts and a wide range of other pods on sportswriting, football, GAA, and coaching, as well as getting access to our member-only Whatsapp groups and weekly newsletters.

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