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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Tommy Dickson/INPHO Stockdale scored against New Zealand in 2018.
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'Jacob has shown a lot of hunger. The fight and the want is there'
Andy Farrell is backing some old faces – as well as several new ones – to shine against a New Zealand XV in Dublin on Friday.

THE SUCCESSION PLANNING is under way. It started off in Hamilton and if Andy Farrell has his way, it’ll end up in the Stade de France on World Cup final day a year from now.

We all know what he’s after, a back-up to Johnny Sexton, cover for Tadhg Furlong, a plan b and plan c to turn to if the events of October 2015 happen all over again.

That was the day Sexton, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony and Jared Payne went down, and so, consequently did Irish hopes. The stand-ins didn’t stand out. Argentina were too strong, Ireland discovering the difference between a team and a squad.

So, that’s why we are here, talking about ‘the next cabs off the rank’ as Farrell so colourfully phrased it today, wanting to see if younger players like Craig Casey, Cian Prendergast and Jack Crowley have a bright future, and if experienced ones like Marty Moore and Jacob Stockdale can rediscover their past.

Everyone has something to prove (against New Zealand A, Friday, 7.45pm, Live Virgin Media), Moore that he can do the things in the loose that we know he can deliver in the tight; Stockdale that he can do the things in 2022 that we took for granted in 2018.

“We all know Jacob has been out injured for quite some time and even though a few lads have staked their claim for a place (as a starting wing on the first XV) Jacob has shown a lot of hunger from the start of this season,” said Farrell. “The fight and the want is there.”

It’s there with all of them, the half-forgotten and the yet-to-be-seen. Outside of Connacht and Ulster, few have paid much attention to Nick Timoney and Cian Prendergast, but an international audience will soon know their names. Facing a New Zealand XV on Friday is as close to Test-match rugby as you’re going to get. Both players impressed on tour this summer.

Now they can show they have a future; Moore and Stockdale that they don’t just have a past. “Marty has been a cornerstone of Ulster’s pack for the last few years,” said Farrell. “He has earned the right to get this chance.”

john-fogarty-and-marty-moore Billy Stickland / INPHO Marty Moore back training with Ireland. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Of all the selections, this one is the most intriguing, largely because Ireland’s progress over the last 18 months has come with an asterisk attached. Yes, Ireland can outplay teams but can they overpower them? The answer, particularly at scrum time, against France, England and New Zealand in the first test of this summer’s tour, was no.

But with Moore, there is a sense that panic won’t travel with him if he is launched from the bench to anchor an Irish scrum. The challenge for him now is to fit into the Farrell way of doing things.

The coach outlined his philosophy today, how he challenges his players to be ‘team-first’ in their attitude. “That has been a point of difference for us over the last few years,” he said.

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Results back up his assertion. Just two defeats have come since the day France exited the Aviva Stadium during that lockdown winter of 2021 with a narrow win. England twice, New Zealand three times, Argentina, Wales, Scotland, they’ve all fallen, some heavily.

But Friday’s A international is different. It’s not just about the result, it’s about future results, about finding out who can hack it, who can step up if a Sexton or a Furlong or a James Ryan has to step out.

Intriguingly, Craig Casey was named captain, a unanimous choice by the coaches, Farrell said.

 “He is the ultimate professional and because he has been around the environment for some time, the responsibility is a nice step in his development as well.”

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