# Talking Points
Bowe's return, potential Scannell debut, and Henderson locked in
Joe Schmidt has recalled 67-times capped Ulsterman Tommy Bowe.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS named his squad to face Scotland at Murrayfield in the Six Nations on Saturday [KO 2.25pm].

See the match day 23 in full here.


A back row of CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip is possibly as good as any in the world, although this was always going to be a huge area of strength for Ireland even after Peter O’Mahony was ruled out through injury.

Paddy Jackson, Jamie Heaslip and Simon Zebo Gary Carr / INPHO Ireland trained at Carton House today. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland have a new centre combination in Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose, who have already proven themselves to be balanced and incisive for Leinster. The step-up in defensive difficulty will be a test for them, but the Irish midfield is a threat to Scotland.

A front row of Jack McGrath, captain Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong already has a settled look to it, even if the tighthead only has 11 caps to his name. All three are strong candidates for the Lions and should expect to have an edge over the Scots.

The back three has been shorn of Andrew Trimble, but there is proven international class there too. Simon Zebo has been superb this season, Keith Earls is capable of creating tries and defending aggressively, while Rob Kearney’s aerial prowess should be important with rain expected in Murrayfield.

The remaining players in this XV – Devin Toner, Iain Henderson, Conor Murray and Paddy Jackson – are also impressive individuals, meaning Ireland have named a starting team that should have no fear of travelling to Edinburgh.

Keatley’s comeback

With Johnny Sexton out injured, Ian Madigan exiled in France and Joey Carbery still returning to full fitness, Schmidt has opted for Munster man Ian Keatley on the Ireland bench.

Joe Schmidt with Paddy Jackson and Ian Keatley Dan Sheridan / INPHO Keatley provides back-up to Paddy Jackson. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Keatley last played for Ireland in the 2015 Six Nations win over Italy, when he was preferred to Madigan. The former Connacht out-half has rarely been on Ireland’s radar since.

Keatley has lost his Munster place to Kiwi Tyler Bleyendaal this season, although he does have five Pro12 starts under his belt.

Rory Scannell was in contention to provide back-up to Paddy Jackson, but instead finds himself on the Munster bench for tomorrow’s clash with Edinburgh. He must be bitterly disappointed.

Schmidt will be hopeful that Jackson does not pull up early in the game with injury, given that there remains something of the unknown about Keatley at this level. The Munster man, however, will be relishing the prospect of his fifth cap in green.

Henderson locked in

Schmidt had excellent options for the second lock spot alongside Devin Toner, with Donnacha Ryan, Iain Henderson and Ultan Dillane in fierce competition.

Munster’s Ryan had appeared to be the most in-form candidate, but Schmidt has opted for Ulsterman Henderson for Saturday’s contest in Murrayfield.

Iain Henderson Dan Sheridan / INPHO Henderson is in the row. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Henderson has played the majority of his provincial rugby this season at blindside flanker, but Schmidt has seen him predominantly as a second row in recent seasons.

Despite the lack of match practice at lock for Ulster, Henderson will bring ball-carrying impetus, counter-rucking aggression and lineout mobility for Ireland this weekend, as well as his ever-improving maul skills.

In what are expected to be poor weather conditions, the 24-year-old’s explosive power could be crucial.

Ryan has a right to feel aggrieved at missing out completely, but then he had warning of Schmidt’s preference for Henderson when he was dropped in November.

Scannell debut

Presuming he does get off the bench in place of captain Best on Saturday, Rory Scannell will become Ireland international 1,090.

The Munster hooker has had a fine season, even if there have been a couple of throwing wobbles more recently, and deserves his shot in the Test arena.

Niall Scannell Gary Carr / INPHO Scannell is set for a Test debut off the bench. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

James Tracy won his first Ireland cap against Canada in November, scoring a try, but his issues at the lineout in recent times appear to have cost him on this occasion.

It is, of course, the absence of Sean Cronin through injury that has opened the door in the 16 shirt, meaning Scannell now has a whole lot of bench impact to live up to. Cronin is regularly important for Ireland in lifting the tempo and providing mobility.

Former Ireland U20 captain Scannell is certainly capable around the pitch himself, with his handling a strength too, and has shown the kind of attention to detail around the ruck and on the ground post-tackle that Schmidt stresses as important.

Throwback to Tommy

Tommy Bowe is back in green for the first time since his serious knee injury against Argentina in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final defeat.

Tommy Bowe Gary Carr / INPHO Bowe last played for Ireland in 2015. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

His comeback has been a frustrating one, but Schmidt clearly values what the Ulster wing brings and has named him on the Ireland bench. Experience, power, defensive assurance, aerial quality and sharp running lines are a few of the things Schmidt will expect.

Bowe doesn’t have his very best form behind him, although he did look like his old self at times during Ulster’s Champions Cup clashes with Clermont in December.

With 30 tries in his 67 caps, as well as two Lions tours under his belt, Bowe has shown before that he can excel on the international stage. At the age of 32, he will have a point to prove to those who would argue that Tiernan O’Halloran was more deserving of Ireland’s 23 shirt.

Bench options

Schmidt places great emphasis on his bench players providing impact, with the replacements under almost as much pressure as the starters to be well prepared.

John Ryan Dan Sheridan / INPHO John Ryan provides the tighthead cover. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Hooker Scannell is joined by Cian Healy and John Ryan as the front row subs, with Healy having shown fine form in Leinster colours this season. Ryan, meanwhile, has been outstanding for Munster on a consistent basis and deserves a second cap.

Ultan Dillane’s impact power means he nudges his way onto the bench too – despite not having played for Connacht since 23 December – while Josh van der Flier should provide typically ceaseless work rate as back row cover.

Keiran Marmion’s form for Connacht means he has held off the challenge of Leinster’s Luke McGrath, while Keatley and Bowe will look to make an impression on their international returns.

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