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4 Wolfhounds who put their hands up for Six Nations selection

Picking out individuals was no easty task, but these men may have increased their Six Nations chances.

Murray Kinsella reports from Musgrave Park

THE IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS suffered a frustrating 18-9 defeat to the England Saxons in Cork this evening. You can read our full match report on the game here.

In this piece, we look at some of the Irish players who did their Six Nations prospects no harm against the Saxons.

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Sean O’Brien

The Leinster back row got through a strong 51-minute shift on his return from injury, announcing himself with a turnover penalty on Sam Burgess in the opening minute. Even better was the 12th-minute steal of Elliot Daly, as O’Brien positively bounced off the deck to jackal.

Sean O'Brien leaves the field after being substituted O'Brien leaves the pitch after 51 minutes of action. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

His carrying was largely in cluttered areas, but O’Brien happily did the dirty work there. In terms of tackling, that troublesome left shoulder took some heavy contact and seemingly came through unscathed.

How does Schmidt utilise O’Brien next weekend? The openside himself will naturally be desperate to start in Rome, but is there risk in that? Ireland’s medical staff may have some part to play in the decision, but O’Brien looks ready based on this evidence.

Dominic Ryan

This was a highly productive evening for another of the all-Leinster starting back row, with Ryan prominent throughout. His lineout work was a particular highlight, with Richardt Strauss repeatedly aiming for Ryan in the air.

Mike Ross and Dominic Ryan tackle Thomas Waldrom Ryan combines with Mike Ross to tackle Thomas Waldrom. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A thumping first-minute tackle on Burgess set out Ryan’s stall in a physical sense, and the 24-year-old threw himself around the corner to carry in typical fashion. There are more high-profile back rows in the Ireland squad, but ‘Dippy’ continues to show his worth.

The fact that Ryan covers both flanker positions is useful too, and Schmidt has long been a fan. Tommy O’Donnell and Jordi Murphy are in the frame for Italy, as well as O’Brien, but Ryan has put his hand up in emphatic fashion.

Keith Earls

This was far from a flowing attacking performance from the Wolfhounds and it seems likely that Schmidt will have been deeply disappointed to see his men fail to link up more threateningly.

Keith Earls Earls' display was mixed, but he showed attacking spark. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

That said, the one man who looked like making something happen was Keith Earls on his second start of the season at outside centre. This was an imperfect showing – the missed tackle on Elliot Daly will rankle – but the Limerick man was lively.

His very first carry saw him pirouette out of a tackle, while he was aggressive when asked to be more direct. A poor pass down the left in the first half was disappointing, although he had struggled to gather the pass from Gordon D’Arcy immediately before that.

Iain Henderson

The Ulster lock picked up the man of the match award for a busy outing, and showed his power whenever possible. There was a bite to much of Henderson’s work on the ball, perhaps showing frustration at how the Wolfhounds were performing.

Eoin McKeon supported by Iain Henderson Henderson was an aggressive presence at Musgrave Park. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Henderson slammed rucks whenever the Saxons looked to steal, while his lineout work was impressive too. Still only 22, the Ulsterman already looks a complete player, particularly when used in the second row.

Leaving him out of the squad for the Italy game now seems impossible, and Henderson can be relied on to make a telling impact. The sky is the limit for this lock of ever-growing maturity.

Who else impressed you in the Wolfhounds’ defeat? Let us know which individuals you felt stood out.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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