Brian O'Driscoll on big second row calls for Ireland's tour to New Zealand
"The squad is going to be big, isn't it?"
We are not far off learning the make-up of Andy Farrell's engorged squad for a five-game tour to New Zealand. Brian O'Driscoll expects a couple of fresh faces, and one 28-year-old that's not so much 'fresh' as a late bloomer.
While he had a tough outing, off the bench, against the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship semi-final, O'Driscoll feels Ross Molony's form over the course of this season merits selection for the New Zealand tour.
We recently caught up with the former Leinster and Ireland centre, and BT Sports pundit, and asked if he could see many bolters for a tour that will encompass two midweek games against the Maori All Blacks and three Tests against New Zealand.
O'Driscoll sounded confident on the call-up prospects for Molony, but he did mention the names of two Munster locks vying for second row positions in the squad.
Brian O'Driscoll on potential Ireland call-ups
While Brian O'Driscoll reckons Andy Farrell could select at least 35 players to tour New Zealand, the number expected to be announced on Tuesday is expected to be north of 40.
With a few established stars carrying full-blown injuries, and others considerably banged up, there may be five or six uncapped players included.
"I think you'll probably see Ross Molony named in the set-up," O'Driscoll told us.
"It would be interesting to see if Fineen Wycherley makes it, and what [additional] loose-head or second row is called into the squad. They may play the midweek matches, but not the Tests.
"It could be Thomas Ahern, as it is inevitable that one of these guys will be capped in the next year or so. It is an opportunity to put some of these guys in the Maori games and give them that experience of the national set-up.
"It would have to be a fairly big squad, to cover that many games, and the physicality and intensity of it, at the end of the season.
"If I was to pick out one guy that has been a stand-out performer over the last two or three months - and some may say the whole season - it would be Ross Molony. He's been able to deliver performances that people may have thought he did not have in him. And [a call-up] would be the next evolution of a game that has come good, well into his 20s, when maybe the feeling was that [such form] would have came through at 23 or 24. It has been."
Molony has played 23 times for Leinster this season [18 starts] and was called into Ireland squads in June 2021, and during the 2022 Six Nations, without yet making a Test appearance.
One name not mentioned, but definitely in consideration, is Leinster lock Joe McCarthy. While the 21-year-old has only 11 senior appearances to his name, he is well regarded in the Ireland coaching set-up and could be one of those bolter inclusions.
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