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INPHO Rhys Ruddock and Gavin Coombes have been in superb form for their provinces.
# Trial
Ruddock among those keen to impress Farrell in last Six Nations audition
Munster’s clash with Leinster gives players one last chance to convince the Ireland boss.

AS ANDY FARRELL considers any last-minute changes to his Six Nations squad, Saturday’s clash between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park is the perfect final trial.

Farrell has plenty of back row options to choose from and this inter-provincial meeting might just sway his thinking on the last spot or two in that depth chart. There are few better places to prove yourself than this derby.

For Leinster and Munster, selecting their starting back row trios will be tricky enough, never mind the Ireland conundrum.

Captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander look nailed on for Munster, but Jack O’Donoghue is back from a recent knock to push the in-form Gavin Coombes, who will hope to impress Farrell if he continues in the starting XV.

Meanwhile, Leinster have an embarrassment of back row quality to choose from with Caelan Doris, Jack Conan, Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier, Will Connors, and Josh Murphy all vying for places.

The situation is a little similar in the back threes, where both provinces have interesting calls to confirm. Rarely before has a Munster v Leinster derby been so well-timed with regards to Ireland selection.

“There’s quite a bit at stake and some of those so-called fringe players, or what have you, will have a lot to prove,” said Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde yesterday

“We saw that in our loss against Connacht. When a team has got a bit of edge about them and want to prove a few people wrong, they can do some damage, as we found to our detriment.

“So we’re going to have to be at our best and find that edge there. There will be a few interesting head-to-heads no doubt. I hope it will be a great spectacle for Irish rugby.”

andy-farrell-during-the-warm-up Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Andy Farrell is due to name his Six Nations squad on Monday or Tuesday. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

30-year-old Ruddock is a figure of particular interest – if he starts. The back row has been in excellent form for Leinster this season and would love one last shot at convincing Farrell he is deserving of an Ireland recall.

If Farrell is looking for any references from within the Leinster camp, they will be glowing.

“Accuracy, solidity, he is a great voice as well,” said McBryde of Ruddock’s qualities. “He is very often the captain, he has a good understanding of the game and he is pretty effective on both sides of the ball, both as an attacker and as a defender.

“Collision dominance is one thing that he has got on both sides of the ball.

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“That leadership that we have spoken about among ourselves as coaches: we’re not always the loudest team and especially with no crowds sometimes it can seem as if we are extremely quiet on the pitch because you can hear the opposition team and subs whooping and hollering, whereas we tend to just stay a bit quiet and go about our business but we are always looking for those leaders to stand up and take ownership.

“Rhys is one of the first to put his hand up and speak in front of his peers. He is playing well at the moment.”

While the Leinster and Munster camps are certainly focused on the task at hand this week – there are precious Pro14 points on offer – it’s also undeniable that the players have an extra layer of motivation with that Ireland squad to be named so soon.

“This week, in particular, is definitely going to be one to watch from an Irish perspective,” said McBryde.

“It doesn’t matter if you support either Munster or Leinster, it doesn’t make a difference, I think it’s going to be a great game.”

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