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Carty and Treadwell in, two uncapped backs, a settled squad - Farrell's selection

The likes of Kieran Marmion and Ciarán Frawley are unlucky to miss out.

Jack Carty and Kieran Treadwell have been called up.
Jack Carty and Kieran Treadwell have been called up.

AS EXPECTED, ANDY Farrell named a settled Ireland squad for the upcoming Six Nations yesterday but there were still some notable changes and omissions in his 37-man group.

With Ireland’s opener against Wales in Dublin now just 16 days away, we break down Farrell’s selection for the 2022 championship.

Back threes

Hugo Keenan, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Robert Baloucoune, Jordan Larmour, Mack Hansen, Mike Lowry

The obvious absence here is James Lowe, who cruelly misses out after picking up an injury during Leinster training this week and having been so impressive in his three starts for Ireland last autumn.

Simon Zebo also misses out after being part of the November squad but not featuring on the pitch, with a lack of game time and a red card for Munster since hampering his chances of being called up again for the Six Nations.

In come the uncapped pair of Mack Hansen and Mike Lowry, who have both been involved in Ireland camps before and bring exciting form with them. Hansen has been prolific for Connacht on the left wing since joining last summer and is set to return from a calf injury, while Lowry has been superb at fullback for Ulster.

Hugo Keenan is a clear first-choice pick for Ireland in the number 15 shirt but Lowe’s injury opens up a spot in the starting back three. Andrew Conway was excellent on the right wing last autumn but did play on the left for Ireland last summer so could switch across.

If Conway was to move across, it could allow Ulster’s impressive Robert Baloucoune to come in on the right wing after starting Ireland’s most recent Test against Argentina there.

Of course, the experienced Keith Earls is also firmly in the mix and has been playing on the left wing for Munster, while Leinster’s Jordan Larmour also has some experience there and looked sharp for his province last weekend before suffering a dead leg.

Centres

Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, James Hume

james-hume James Hume is in great form. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With Robbie Henshaw formally named in the Ireland squad this time – the autumn saw him initially not named before he returned to fitness in time for the last outing against Argentina – Farrell has gone for just four centres.

Leinster’s Ciarán Frawley is unlucky to miss out after being involved in November but not winning his first cap, while Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey is also absent, currently sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Farrell has four superb centres to choose from, however, with the longstanding trio of Henshaw, Bundee Aki, and Garry Ringrose joined again by Ulster’s impactful and impressive James Hume.

The 23-year-old is on an irresistible upward trajectory and after winning his first Ireland cap last summer, surely deserves a start against Italy in this Six Nations. 

Henshaw and Aki are set to compete for the number 12 shirt again, while Ringrose is the incumbent at 13 but now faces pressure from Hume. The fact that Ringrose is also playing excellent rugby means Farrell will be delighted with his midfield options.

Munster’s Chris Farrell, who missed the autumn through injury, has also been omitted due to the form of the four centres who have been selected. 

Out-halves

Johnny Sexton (captain), Joey Carbery, Jack Carty

Sexton’s return from an ankle and knee injury for Leinster last weekend was timely and he will hope that a start against Bath this Saturday leaves him in perfect condition for a Six Nations title attempt as Ireland captain.

Joey Carbery’s inclusion was something of a surprise yesterday given that he is still on the way back from a fractured elbow and could miss the opening round of the championship, although Farrell and co. are evidently optimistic about his recovery rate.

However, Connacht’s in-form Jack Carty is well placed to win his first cap since the 2019 World Cup in the opening game against Wales as possible back-up to Sexton, having played some of the best rugby of his career so far this season.

Leinster’s 22-year-old Harry Byrne misses out on the squad this time around and though Farrell rates his potential, he simply hasn’t played enough rugby this season to showcase his ability.

Scrum-halves

Jamison Gibson-Park, Conor Murray, Craig Casey

jamison-gibson-park-celebrates-after-the-game-with-his-daughter-isabella-and-iris Gibson-Park impressed in the autumn. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

There is no change to this area of Farrell’s squad, with Connacht man Kieran Marmion very unlucky not to be involved after taking his form to another level this season and shining in several of the inter-provincial games.

Instead, Farrell has backed 22-year-old Munster halfback Craig Casey to be his third scrum-half again. The Limerick man had a good outing in the recent comeback win over Ulster and the Farrell clearly believes he can continue to develop in Ireland camp.

Jamison Gibson-Park will return to camp as the incumbent in the number nine shirt, albeit he missed the most recent game against Argentina due to injury after impressing against Japan and New Zealand.

Conor Murray, whose new central IRFU contract was confirmed before Christmas, will be fighting every inch of the way to reclaim the spot he held for so long before Gibson-Park’s emergence at this level.

Back rows: 

Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony, Nick Timoney, Gavin Coombes

Another unchanged area of the squad and it’s no surprise given how Farrell’s back row performed in the autumn and the recent form of some of these players.

Number eight Jack Conan only returned to action from injury last weekend but blindside flanker Caelan Doris and openside Josh van der Flier have continued to excel whenever they’ve played for Leinster – admittedly not very much in recent months.

Peter O’Mahony is playing some of his very best rugby for Munster and was an impactful part of the back row unit for Ireland in November, while it has been pleasing for Farrell to see Gavin Coombes picking up form again in the red jersey. The West Cork man was part of the autumn squad but illness deprived him of the chance to play.

Ulster’s Nick Timoney remains in good form and offers a dynamic, clever option for Ireland as he hopes to win his first Six Nations cap. 

Farrell has also included Connacht’s uncapped Cian Prendergast as a development player for the early stages of Ireland’s Six Nations preparations and it’s just reward for the 21-year-old Kildare man’s excellent performances at provincial level. 

Second rows:

Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Kieran Treadwell, Ryan Baird

tadhg-beirne-is-brought-down-from-the-air-by-cian-healy Tadhg Beirne has been playing superb rugby. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The big change here sees Connacht man Ultan Dillane left out, presumably on account of his impending move to La Rochelle at the end of the season, with Ulster’s Kieran Treadwell coming into the squad.

Leinster’s Ross Molony, Munster’s Jean Kleyn and Ulster’s Alan O’Connor were likely all in the mix too but Treadwell has been delivering eye-catchingly dynamic performances for his province of late and stepped up on big European occasions against Clermont and Northampton in particular. He won three Ireland caps under Joe Schmidt back in 2017 but hasn’t featured since.

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Farrell will be pleased that he has been able to name his three frontline locks in Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, and James Ryan despite the last two of that trio having been sidelined with injuries in recent times.

That surely means Beirne’s frankly ridiculous impact on games for Munster will result in him beginning the Six Nations in Ireland’s starting XV, although Farrell has leaned towards a Henderson-Ryan pairing when they’re both available.

The exciting 22-year-old Leinster man Ryan Baird returns to camp looking to kick on from the ‘potential’ category to being a prominent figure in Ireland’s matchday squad during this campaign.

Tighthead props:

Tadhg Furlong, Finlay Bealham, Tom O’Toole

It is a sweet relief for Farrell that the calf injury Furlong picked up last weekend for Leinster against Montpellier is not thought to be too serious, given how vital the Wexford man is to Ireland being at their best.

One of the world’s best players, Furlong’s power, work-rate, set-piece nous, and skill level elevate this Ireland team.

Farrell hasn’t made any changes to the front row options in his Ireland squad so he will be hoping that 23-year-old Ulster tighthead Tom O’Toole can continue his growth into being a front-line back-up option to Furlong.

Connacht’s more proven Finlay Bealham could remain second in line, however, having come off the bench against Japan and the All Blacks last autumn before O’Toole got a cap against Argentina.

Hookers:

Rónan Kelleher, Dan Sheehan, Rob Herring

dan-sheehan-celebrates-after-the-game Dan Sheehan will be aiming for his first Ireland start. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

 Leinster’s explosive duo of Rónan Kelleher and Dan Sheehan look set to continue their development as a potentially world-class hooking combination during this Six Nations, with the former having nailed down the starting jersey last autumn.

Sheehan won his first two caps for Ireland in November and looked very much at home, while his performances for Leinster this season have also been very exciting for Farrell to watch. He will aim for a first Ireland start in the Six Nations.

Ulster’s Rob Herring was the previous incumbent at hooker and still offers set-piece reliability, intelligence around the pitch, and a big work-rate at ruck time, but the Leinster players are more powerful ball-carriers and both are also comfortable when it comes to passing and offloading.

Ireland had long-term concerns over the hooker slot not too long ago but the 23-year-old pair of Kelleher and Sheehan have very much eased them.

Loosehead prop

Andrew Porter, Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne

It was always unlikely that Farrell would make any change in this department, with Porter set to continue his transformation back onto the loosehead side at Test level after three impressive starts there in November.

The 26-year-old Leinster man could even become the best loosehead prop in the world if he continues as he has been going.

34-year-old Cian Healy appears to be the back-up again, offering vast experience and plenty of nous around the set-piece and ruck. Naturally enough, he isn’t quite the dynamic carrier he once was but will be determined to remain a key figure through to the 2023 World Cup.

Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne has been as aggressive as ever in the carry for Munster in recent months but will have to come from behind Healy to make it into Ireland’s matchday squad in this Six Nations.

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