Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Dan Sheridan/INPHO Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
# Selection
Fiji clash provides Farrell with scope to make changes to Ireland XV
It is expected that the Ireland boss will use his wider squad in their second autumn clash.

HISTORY SUGGESTS THAT wholesale changes are coming in the Ireland team for this weekend’s clash with Fiji, although head coach Andy Farrell might be tempted to keep at least some element of continuity in his selection.

The Flying Fijians lost 28-12 to Scotland on Saturday but gave Gregor Townsend’s side a fright along the way. They’re ranked 12th in the world and possess plenty of their usual attacking qualities, as well as more of an edge thanks to head coach Vern Cotter’s influence.

Nonetheless, this looks like an opportunity for Farrell to use his wider playing group and rotate his team as he continues to test and develop the depth of his squad for next year’s World Cup. It would be a surprise if we don’t see a very different Ireland team named.

The likes of Joey Carbery, Finlay Bealham, and Kieran Treadwell, who came off the bench in Saturday’s win over South Africa, would certainly relish a starting opportunity this weekend.

Ireland A had a poor night on Friday as they were dismantled by the All Blacks XV at the RDS and there is no doubt that some of Farrell’s fringe players failed to further their claims for more opportunity at senior Test level. That said, Farrell is unlikely to completely write players off based on one game for which they had very little prep time.

Senior squad members such as Mike Lowry, Craig Casey, Tom O’Toole, Cian Prendergast, and Nick Timoney will be hoping Farrell sees fit to bring them into the fold to feature against the Fijians at 1pm on Saturday. The IRFU are due to provide an injury update on Ciarán Frawley and Joe McCarthy – who were injured on Friday night – later today but they will have been eyeing this fixture too.

It will be fascinating to learn whether any of the 12-man Ireland A group who trained with the senior squad and then faced the All Blacks XV on Friday will now remain with Farrell’s squad for the Tests against Fiji and Australia. 

joey-carbery-celebrates-after-the-game Bryan Keane / INPHO Joey Carbery got three minutes off the bench on Saturday. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

It was interesting to see Munster’s Jack Crowley doing the warm-up with Ireland on Saturday and then running water during the game, passing on messages from the coaches to Johnny Sexton and co. Other Ireland A players including James Hume and Marty Moore have plenty to offer the senior squad.

Of course, Farrell has had to account for the injuries picked up on Saturday in a brutal game against the Springboks.

Scrum-half Conor Murray sustained a groin injury that left him limping post-match, tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong was forced off at half time with an ankle injury, while centre Stuart McCloskey suffered an arm issue and was replaced 27 minutes into the game after making an excellent start.

Farrell said post-match that McCloskey’s injury might not be as bad as initially feared. The IRFU’s update this afternoon should provide further clarity.

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All in all, Farrell has had plenty to ponder with selection for this Fiji clash. He will certainly be keen to keep Ireland’s momentum rolling on into the final autumn clash against the Wallabies, but that can happen even with plenty of changes this week.

“No matter what the side is next week regarding injuries or whatever, it will be our best side for the occasion against Fiji,” said Farrell on Saturday night.

“I watched 50 minutes of their match [against Scotland] today and they were good, you know. So you have got to be consistent in this game and the lads who take the field next week will know that.”

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