Out to impress

Ireland auditions for Munster and Connacht men as Farrell finalises autumn squad

Munster are away to the Scarlets as Connacht host Glasgow in the Pro14.

LEINSTER AND ULSTER players had their chance to impress last night and it’s Munster and Connacht hopefuls who get the opportunity today with Ireland boss Andy Farrell watching on.

Farrell is set to name his Ireland squad for the autumn Tests at some point next week and it promises to be an intriguing selection.

Of course, the reality is that the Ireland head coach will already have picked the majority of his group before this weekend and a Pro14 opener might not be enough to change some of the decisions he has made, but there are points of interest in Connacht and Munster’s games today – as well as the hope that those already picked don’t get injured.

craig-casey Munster scrum-half Craig Casey is one of the most promising young players in the country. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Connacht halfback pair Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty come into this season with ambitions of reclaiming their spots in the Ireland squad, so an impressive outing against Danny Wilson’s Glasgow in Galway this evening [KO 5.15pm, eir Sport and TG4] would be timely.

With the battle for the Ireland scrum-half slots seemingly as open as it has been for some time, 28-year-old Marmion will feel he still has plenty to offer at Test level, while many eyes will be on the uncapped 21-year-old Craig Casey as he starts in the number nine shirt for Munster with Conor Murray out injured.

Casey is at the beginning of his senior career but clearly has major potential that may interest Farrell. A good showing in what are forecast to be wet and windy conditions for Munster against a strong Scarlets team [KO 3pm, eir Sport and TG4] this afternoon would show his maturity and adaptability.

Many of Casey’s team-mates will be in the running with Ireland, including Andrew Conway and Chris Farrell, as well as the starting back row trio of captain Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue, and CJ Stander.

Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne will hope to be included in whatever group of locks Farrell picks, but Connacht’s starting pair in Galway – Quinn Roux and Gavin Thornbury – are also of interest in that area.

The respective tighthead props, John Ryan and Finlay Bealham, will also be keen to impress given the recent injury problems for Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong and Ulster man Tom O’Toole, both of whom featured in Farrell’s Six Nations squad earlier this year.

Farrell will be keeping a close eye on Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan, who was also part of the Six Nations group, and the Ireland boss is known to be a fan of his dynamism around the pitch. Meanwhile, Bundee Aki will look to show he’s in perfect nick for an Ireland starting spot later this month.

bundee-aki-with-kieran-marmion-and-jack-carty-after-the-game Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty will hope to return to the Ireland mix along with Bundee Aki. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Last night, Ireland scrum coach John Fogarty and attack coach Mike Catt were in attendance at the RDS as Leinster earned a bonus-point win against the Dragons, with fullback Hugo Keenan and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park among the more impressive performers. 

Neither is capped but both are now on Ireland’s radar thanks to their excellent recent form. Farrell has some injury concerns from that Leinster win in Johnny Sexton, Andrew Porter, and most notably Max Deegan, whose knee injury appeared to be the worst.

Jack Conan will be hoping for a return to the Ireland fold as part of the usual large Leinster contingent, which is sure to include the likes of Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw, James Ryan, and Cian Healy.

James Lowe qualifies for Ireland at the start of November, while 21-year-old Ryan Baird has done more than enough to be included in this autumn squad.

Ulster got their new season off to a winning start last night too and will now expect to see the likes of Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, John Cooney, and Jacob Stockdale head off to Ireland camp, but it will be intriguing to see how Farrell rates the Ulstermen’s form and whether any of their young guns have caught his eye.  

The fact that this autumn series now has no bearing on Ireland’s seeding for the 2023 World Cup pool draw in December might just allow Farrell to experiment a little more in the Autumn Nations Cup. 

leinsters-ryan-baird Ryan Baird could be set for his first Ireland cap this autumn. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland will have their eye on a bit of silverware in that new four-week competition from 14 November to 5 December but there’s no doubt that Farrell could also use those games to create more competition for places and find out which players are up to Test level.

Either way, Connacht and Munster’s players have plenty of reasons to impress today as they face potentially tricky challenges against Glasgow and Scarlets.

Munster (v Scarlets):

15. Mike Haley
14. Andrew Conway
13. Chris Farrell
12. Damian de Allende
11. Darren Sweetnam
10. JJ Hanrahan
9. Craig Casey

1. James Cronin
2. Rhys Marshall
3. John Ryan
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Jack O’Donoghue
8. CJ Stander


16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. Jeremy Loughman
18. Stephen Archer
19. Fineen Wycherley
20. Gavin Coombes
21. Neil Cronin
22. Ben Healy
23. Rory Scannell


15. Leigh Halfpenny
14. Tom Rogers,
13. Jonathan Davies
12, Steff Hughes
11. Steff Evans
10. Dan Jones
9. Gareth Davies

1. Wyn Jones
2. Ken Owens (captain)
3. Werner Kruger
4. Jake Ball
5. Sam Lousi
6. Blade Thomson
7. Josh Macleod
8. Sione Kalamafoni


16. Ryan Elias
17. Phil Price
18. Javan Sebastian
19. Lewis Rawlins
20. James Davies
21. Kieran Hardy
22. Rhys Patchell
23. Tyler Morgan

Referee: Sam Grove-White [Wales].

Connacht (v Glasgow):

15. John Porch
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Tom Farrell
12. Bundee Aki
11. Alex Wootton
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Gavin Thornbury
5. Quinn Roux
6. Jarrad Butler (captain)
7. Conor Oliver
8. Paul Boyle


16. Jonny Murphy
17. Jordan Duggan
18. Jack Aungier
19. Niall Murray
20. Seán Masterson
21. Caolin Blade
22. Conor Fitzgerald
23. Sammy Arnold


15. Huw Jones
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Nick Grigg
12. Stan McDowall
11. Robbie Nairn
10. Adam Hastings
9. Ali Price

1. O Kebble
2. Fraser Brown (captain)
3. Darcy Rae
4. Rob Harley
5. Scott Cummings
6. Ryan Wilson
7. Chris Fusaro
8. Matt Fagerson


16. George Turner
17. Aki Seiuli
18. Enrique Pieretto
19. Richie Gray
20. Fotu Lokotui
21. George Horne
22. Peter Horne
23. Ratu Tagive

Referee: Craig Evans [Wales].

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss the provinces’ 2020/21 starts, the South African-infused Pro16, and the schools-versus-clubs dynamic in Ireland

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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