Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 5°C Sunday 28 February 2021

Conway gets a start, POM drops to the bench, and Murray keeps his place

Johnny Sexton is fully fit to captain Ireland as they begin the Andy Farrell era.

ANDY FARRELL HAS named his first Ireland team for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Scotland in Dublin.

You can view Ireland’s matchday 23 in full here.

Doris gets a starting Test debut 

The 21-year-old will receive the first new cap Farrell hands out in his tenure. Doris has done more than enough to earn his shot at Test rugby.

Having excelled in schoolboy rugby, the number eight played two years at Ireland U20 level to mark out his rich promise. Last season, he got 15 senior appearances for Leinster under his belt, and the current campaign has seen Doris shift to another level.

caelan-doris Mayo man Doris starts against Scotland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Bulked up after a long Leinster pre-season while others were preparing for the World Cup, Doris is now beginning to fulfill the thrilling potential he possesses. His complete skill set makes him a pure number eight. 

He can dominate collisions, pass accurately, offload out of the tackle, jackal for breakdown turnovers, pick intelligent lines, calmly play off the base of scrums, and clear out rucks effectively. Doris will certainly continue to improve in all of these aspects but already he has been doing them at impressively at Champions Cup level with his province. Now, his Test career is set to take off.

Conway earns a wing spot

Ireland’s back three was always going to be interesting this week. In the end, Will Addison and Keith Earls miss out on the 23 altogether.

Munster man Andrew Conway gets a start on the right wing and it will, rather remarkably, be his first Six Nations start at the age of 28. It has certainly been earned. 

andrew-conway Conway at training in Portugal. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Conway’s form this season has been strong and many would argue he should have been in Ireland’s first-choice team at the World Cup, where he scored three tries in three appearances and looked threatening with every touch.

The former Leinster man possesses a huge work-rate that allows him to offer excellent support play, he has pace and footwork in attack, while his defensive and aerial robustness make him a solid presence out wide too.

Set for his 19th Ireland cap on Saturday, Conway must now gel with Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale in Farrell’s back three. 

Sexton and Murray continue

Having been named the new captain, Johnny Sexton was never going to miss this game. The 34-year-old out-half will be brimming with excitement and energy at the prospect of getting the new era off to a convincing start.

Sexton hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury for Leinster against Northampton on 7 December, meaning Saturday is his first game in exactly eight weeks. The playmaker has shown before that he doesn’t struggle to get back up to speed quickly and he is in excellent physical condition, by all accounts.

jacob-stockdale-conor-murray-dave-kilcoyne-max-deegan-and-andrew-porter Murray and some of his Ireland team-mates. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The new skipper didn’t have the best 2019 for Ireland, so will be motivated to underline his class on an individual level. But, first and foremost, Sexton will be keen to drive the standards around him.

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

It will be intriguing to note Sexton’s body language with team-mates and match officials during games. At times in the past, he has been guilty of expressing his frustrations in an aggressive fashion but more recently with Leinster, we have seen a calmer Sexton dealing with referees in a more polite fashion.

Any captain should be one of the best players on the team and in that regard, Sexton can be most effective by continuing the extremely sharp form he showed for Leinster after the World Cup.  

He continues his longstanding halfback partnership with Conor Murray – who will also be aiming to get back to the heights of 2018.

Murray has beaten off the strong competition of John Cooney and Luke McGrath to keep his place at number nine, with the Ulster man set to come off the bench against the Scots.

Murray’s recent form hasn’t quite set the world alight but he hasn’t been as poor as some of his critics might lead you to believe. The 30-year-old remains under pressure to perform this weekend, though, with Cooney and McGrath ready to step up if he doesn’t. 

Rob Herring first up at hooker

With Rory Best retired and his fellow World Cup hookers, Niall Scannell and Sean Cronin, both left out of Farrell’s Six Nations squad, Ireland were guaranteed to have a new man in their number two shirt against the Scots.

Ulster’s Herring gets the first shot at succeeding Best at hooker, having impressed over the course of this season with his province. Dynamic and skillful around the pitch, Herring is a solid at the nuts and bolts too, even if he has had a lineout wobble or two recently in the Champions Cup.

rob-herring Herring [right] starts, while Kelleher is set for a debut off the bench. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 29-year-old has obviously had to wait a long time for first-choice status at Ulster and the same has applied with Ireland and the Six Nations. Herring has been in a few wider squads before but Saturday will be his first appearance in the championship.

Backing him up this weekend is the very exciting 21-year-old Rónan Kelleher, set for his Test debut off the bench. The Leinster man is a superb athlete and looks like being Ireland’s frontline hooker in the long-term.

A debut in the second half on Saturday would be a nice introduction upon his return from a hand injury that has kept him sidelined since early December.

Peter O’Mahony drops to the bench

Doris’ involvement means a shift of roles for CJ Stander, who moves back to blindside flanker position where he spent the early parts of his Test career. It was only an injury to Jamie Heaslip that saw Stander become Ireland’s number eight.

Stander’s move also means that World Cup starter and vice-captain Peter O’Mahony drops to the bench. The 30-year-old has not been at his best this season and now has to settle for a replacement spot.

peter-omahony Peter O'Mahony will provide cover from the bench. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

How Stander re-adapts to the blindside role will be intriguing, particularly as his game is focused so heavily on relentless carrying and tackling. Josh van der Flier’s form has been excellent at openside for Leinster, meaning his selection is well deserved, while Doris’ potential is very exciting. 

6ft 4ins Doris will likely be a key lineout option for Ireland in the absence of specialist Peter O’Mahony, while James Ryan will assume the role of the primary threat on the opposition throw. 

With Stander, Doris, Ryan, Henderson, Healy, and Furlong all in the starting side, this Ireland pack shouldn’t be short of ball-carriers.

- This article was updated at 5.08pm to correct ‘being’ to ‘begin’ in the sub-heading.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Quinta do Lago

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel