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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 13 November, 2018

Joey jumps in, surprise omissions and more talking points as Ireland name Six Nations squad

Plus Jordan Larmour’s unstoppable rise continues with his 21st birthday still nine months away.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt named a 36-strong squad for the opening rounds of the Six Nations today. You can find the squad in full here and below we discuss some of the stand-out picks.

Larmour, toujours

There was never any doubt. The scintillating form shown by the Leinster fullback, particularly through the winter months, made Jordan Larmour an unavoidable pick for Joe Schmidt.

The former St Andrew’s man has spent the season showing a blatant disregard for the theory that players need time to settle into senior, top level rugby as he has terrorised teams since making his provincial debut in September.

Larmour, who is still well shy of his 21st birthday having represented Ireland U20s last year, is included at the expense of Darren Sweetnam, who has fallen out of favour with Munster after making his Test bow in November, as well as fellow play-making fullbacks Simon Zebo and Tiernan O’Halloran.

Jordan Larmour and Rob Kearney Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Counter-balancing the raw flair of Larmour is the return of Fergus McFadden almost two years on from his last appearance in an Ireland jersey – a Six Nations campaign which included him making the final pass in the Try of the Tournament.

The 31-year-old has powered himself into something of an Indian summer with terrific pace and power back in his game to add to a work ethic and game nous that has always made him a man Schmidt loves to have on the field.

Ulster’s big omissions

While there are changes from November and expected non-selection of foreign-based (Donnacha Ryan and Tadhg Beirne) or foreign-bound (Zebo) players, the more surprising omissions come in the shape of Ulstermen.

John Cooney has been a stand-out player for the northern province this season, successfully making the tough transition from the Ruan Pienaar era a seamless one and bringing a steady goal-kicking threat to a team who have needed all the reliability they can get.

John Cooney Source: James Crombie/INPHO

That collective team form no doubt played a part in Schmidt’s decision not to name Kieran Treadwell among his locks or Stuart McCloskey as one of four centres. Treadwell is replaced in the second row stocks by Connacht’s Quinn Roux, whose three caps to date have come across the last two summer tours. Roux’s return to the fold likely arises out of the need for a solid and experienced option to offset the youth of James Ryan and  complement the explosive nature of Iain Henderson and Ultan Dillane.

Scannell offers variety in the centre

After picking four big ball-carrying centres in November, the decision to take Rory Scannell to Carton House this month gives Schmidt the chance to add some extra variety and a different style in midfield.

Rory Scannell and Johann van Graan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With Garry Ringrose injured and Jared Payne’s future still worryingly unclear, Schmidt is unlikely to veer away from a combination of Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki for what promises to be a teak tough opening day trip to Paris. But Scannell, who can also cover out-half in emergency cases, could be invaluable when it comes to picking apart Italy at the Aviva Stadium.

Along with Sean Cronin, playing above and beyond himself since being dropped in November, Scannell is the most welcome recall to Schmidt’s squad after slotting in smoothly during the summer tour of the US and Japan and playing a key – if often unsung – role in knitting Munster’s back-line together.

Joey jumps straight back in

For many players, a two-month injury absence in the lead-up to a Six Nations would spell disaster for their hopes of being included in a squad for the opening rounds of the Championship. Fortunately for Carbery, he is far from an ordinary player.

Despite still waiting for his first match minutes since fracturing his hand in the November Test win over Fiji, Carbery is selected as one of three out-half options in Schmidt’s squad.

Joey Carbery is tackled by Peni Ravai Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Athy man has returned to full training with his province and will hope to play some part against Montpellier this week. However, the same issue that was inescapable for Carbery in the lead up to November remains entirely relevant.

His time at 10 has been thin on the ground as he was deployed at fullback for Leinster in the early portion of the season before limited to a total of 69 minutes in November by a combination of Johnny Sexton and then his injury.

As a consequence, the 22-year-old may well find himself behind Ian Keatley in the pecking order to play back-up to Sexton come the opening day in Paris. But the buckets of raw talent he offers won’t be left on ice for long.

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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Sean Farrell

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