Ireland's best uncapped prospects for the Guinness Six Nations
"Eimear, will you and Ian stop talking about Ulster, please?!"
While the Champions Cup has been postponed until a later date, the 2021 Guinness Six Nations is set to proceed from early February. France have already named their extended squad, but Ireland may wait until later this month to follow suit.
The last two weekends' Guinness PRO14 action will have heartened Andy Farrell and his coaching staff, which now includes Paul O'Connell as forwards coach. There were wins, apiece, for each of the provinces and the likes of Johnny Sexton, Jordan Larmour, Conor Murray, Peter O'Mahony and Hugo Keenan all got starts, and looked dialled in.
On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode, former Ulster and Ireland centre Darren Cave (LISTEN below) spoke with hosts Eimear Considine and Ian Madigan about some of the uncapped prospects that are in with a Guinness Six Nations shout.
For the show's regular 'Guinness House of Rugby Hall of Fame' section, Irish supporters were asked what young and uncapped players merited call-ups to Farrell's extended championship squad. The following names got multiple mentions:
- Craig Casey, Tom O’Toole, Ben Healy, Ryan Baird, Harry Byrne, Tom Daly.
"A lot of you want to see Munster back-row – and I’m pretty happy with this one – Gavin Coombes in there," Considine noted.
Madigan praised Hugo Keenan and Jordan Larmour - a "shoe-in" for the Ireland XV - for their comeback performances and said Farrell's big call there may be who gets the right wing berth and who starts at fullback. Switching focus to Ulster, he commented:
"I think James Hume is someone who is playing really well in the midfield. There’s a lot of real quality midfielders, right now. We spoke about Tom (Daly) last week and obviously we have the frontline guys. The likes of Bundee, Stu, Garry, Robbie, Chris Farrell. So it’s very competitive but James is definitely someone who has shown that he is up to international standard.
"Mike Lowry is another guy that definitely offers something a bit different. I know he is one of the smaller guys who is out there playing professionally, but his footwork is something that… we’ve seen the likes of Cheslin Kolbe and he’s someone that, the more he plays, he’s going to keep putting his hand up. I’d say he’s definitely on the international coaches’ radar."
"I agree," said Considine. "Lowry was phenomenal in the air last week, as well. For someone of his height, and in challenging conditions with really good, contestable kicks, he was so solid underneath those kicks."
After jokingly chiding the pair for focusing on Ulster players, Cave mentioned two Munster stars that have impressed him in recent weeks.
"There are lots of very competitive positions," he said. "Ireland, at the minute, I don’t think they have a Scooby-Doo what their best team is... they’ve loads of players [to choose from].
"It’s hard to get in the group at the minute, I think, but Craig Casey is the guy… I know that he’s behind Conor Murray and I know there’s loads of 9s in Ireland, but he was really impressive against Ulster and he’s been good throughout the season, so far. And then the other Munster one I was impressed with, and who I hadn’t seen a lot of, was Fineen Wycherley, in the second row. So, again, with the Ireland squad, there is loads of depth and they are two guys that I expect to see, if not this Six Nations, then the foreseeable future."
With no games coming up this weekend, the Leinster and Munster players will get one last chance to impress when they line out, on January 23, in a rearranged Guinness PRO14 fixture at Thomond Park. With the Six Nations due to commence a fortnight later, it will serve as the last proper chance to impress.
WATCH THAT EPISODE HERE:
SUBSCRIBE TO HOUSE OF RUGBY IRELAND HERE
Season 3 has returned with Ian Madigan & Eimear Considine as hosts, and has already featured interviews with Brian O'Driscoll, Nigel Owens, Sean Cronin, Shane Williams, Mike Brown, CJ Stander, Ugo Monye, Sene Naoupu, Schalk Burger, Dan Leo, James Lowe, Marcell Coetzee, Ciaran Griffin, Ian Keatley and Darren Cave.