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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
# Squad News
Lengthy injury list a concern as Farrell prepares to name squad for November internationals
The Ireland head coach will name his squad for the upcoming Test window later today.

BACK THREE, SECOND row and scrum-half are the areas to watch when Andy Farrell names his Ireland squad for the upcoming November internationals later today.

Ireland take on South Africa, Fiji and Australia next month – plus a New Zealand XV v Ireland A fixture – but Farrell has seen a number of key men struggle with injury issues in the lead up to the November series.

In the back three alone, fullback Hugo Keenan and winger James Lowe have yet to feature for Leinster this season. Both players will sit out this weekend’s URC derby meeting with Munster, although Keenan appears closer to a return than Lowe – Stuart Lancaster stating earlier in the week that they should be available “at some point” in November.

Munster’s Keith Earls is battling a hamstring injury, Andrew Conway has yet to return to action after missing the New Zealand tour with a knee problem, while Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale is another player to have suffered an early-season setback, injuring his ankle against Leinster in round three of the URC. Jordan Larmour has already been ruled out as his unfortunate run of injuries continues.

Farrell will take encouragement from the form of Ulster pair Michael Lowry and Robert Baloucoune, along with Connacht’s Mack Hansen and Leinster’s Jimmy O’Brien. Munster flyer Shane Daly could also step up.

hugo-keenan-tackled-by-will-jordan Billy Stickland / INPHO Hugo Keenan has yet to feature this season. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The other big area for concern is scrum-half, with Jamison Gibson-Park also yet to feature this season ahead of the opening fixture against the Springboks on 5 November. With Munster’s Craig Casey set for a scan after injuring his groin against the Bulls last weekend, Conor Murray’s 100th Test cap for Ireland could arrive sooner rather than later. Nathan Doak must be pushing hard for consideration, but his Ulster teammate John Cooney could remain out of the picture, despite being a consistently reliable performer for the province.

Farrell has more options in the second row, but will have been concerned to see Tadhg Beirne head for a scan on a groin issue. James Ryan (knee) and Kieran Treadwell (chest) will hope to shake off their injuries in time, versatile Leinster forward Ryan Baird has yet to return following his HIA against the Sharks in round four, while Iain Henderson is still waiting for his first minutes of the season.

Depending on how some of those come through the next couple of weeks, it could be an interesting month for highly-rated young locks Joe McCarthy and Tom Ahern.

Josh van der Flier (ankle) is the main concern in the back row, with Jack Conan expected to recover from a cut above his eye in time for the Test window. Will Connors is out with a bicep injury, but Peter O’Mahony, Gavin Coombes, Caelan Doris, Cian Prendergast and Nick Timoney are all good to go.

Farrell will be pleased with his options at out-half, with captain Johnny Sexton in superb form across the early stages of the URC and Joey Carbery delivering a timely player of the match performance in Munster’s win over the Bulls. Harry Byrne is out so Ciarán Frawley could once again step in as the third option at 10, following his displays against the Maori All Blacks in the summer. Connacht captain Jack Carty will also hope to get the call after being ruled out of the New Zealand tour with injury.

Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are the clear frontrunners at centre but with Bundee Aki suspended for the South Africa and Fiji games, Stuart McCloskey will hope to be rewarded for his excellent form with Ulster. His Ulster teammate James Hume is also nearing a return to action.

stuart-mccloskey Bryan Keane / INPHO Stuart McCloskey has been excellent for Ulster. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

In the front row, the only major blow is the loss of hooker Ronan Kelleher, who will miss the entire November series with a hamstring injury. An all-Leinster front row of Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong is the most likely combination for the Springboks game, barring any late setbacks.

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There are no other major concerns across Farrell’s various front row options, with the form of Connacht’s Finlay Bealham perhaps the most encouraging development here.

Rob Herring and Dave Heffernan will provide the cover for Sheehan at hooker.

Farrell is due to name his squad later today, before the group gather at their Carton House base next week.

Following a historic summer tour to New Zealand, a massive month awaits for a team who will be keen to back up their billing as the top-ranked side in the world. 

Updated at 12.20pm to clarify Conor Murray’s next cap will be his 100th for Ireland. Murray is currently on 107 career Test caps – 99 for Ireland and eight with the British and Irish Lions.

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