Tomás O'Leary calls for Craig Casey to get No.9 jersey for Italy 1 month ago

Tomás O'Leary calls for Craig Casey to get No.9 jersey for Italy

"It would be good to see him get a taste."

Craig Casey would have been disappointed to miss out against France, but he could get his Test chance very soon.

Already resigned to losing Peter O'Mahony [suspension] and James Ryan [concussion] for the game against France, most of us were surprised by both Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton missing out on the must-win Six Nations game.

Now that Ireland dropped that game to Les Bleus, and looked quite flat in the process, there are calls to inject a bit of life into the backline by sitting the experienced half-backs out of the Italy game, up next.

On the latest House of Rugby Ireland, host Eimear Considine spoke with Fergus McFadden and Tomás O'Leary [LISTEN from 2:30 below] about how Andy Farrell can revive a team in serious need of a jolt.


"I thought Gibson Park had a very decent performance," said O'Leary, when discussing the France game.

"Himself and Rhys Ruddock were good and there were encouraging parts that showed we weren't far off. We were missing key players like Ryan as well. So to go into a game of that magnitude against a top side with a fresh half-back pairing was very positive."

While McFadden also credited Gibson Park for his 80+ performance, the former Leinster and Ireland winger is struggling to understand why Luke McGrath has been left out in the cold.

"I couldn't believe it when the squad was announced and Luke wasn't in it. I'm sure there are a lot of Ulster fans that would have had John Cooney in there but, me having my Leinster hat on, I'd ask, 'How is that guy not in there?'

"You want to bleed guys in, but you also want to win the Six Nations and win your matches in the Six Nations. To do that, you need to have your best guys in there. As we saw, Conor Murray gets injured and Craig Casey comes in, but doesn't get off the bench.

"You have to ask yourself, would Andy Farrell have used Luke McGrath from 60 if he was there? I think he would have. The only reason he hasn't is that Craig hasn't been capped before and they're only losing by two points.

"You need to have every player in your Six Nations squad that you'd be willing to put in on a really big day, in a really big match. Craig Casey hasn't played to that level yet so he was never going to be put in there. So I would question Andy Farrell's selection there, at the starting point of the whole squad."

Craig Casey gets the ball away against Connacht in 2019. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Looking ahead to the Italy game, O'Leary would like to see Casey get a start in Rome.

The former Munster and Ireland scrumhalf commented, "It would be good to see Craig Casey get a taste, as well, but I was impressed with Gibson Park. I thought Byrne did well at 10 when he came on. I’d probably like to see the likes of Jack Carty get an opportunity at 10, too. So those two guys – Jack Carty and Casey in at 9."

"Casey has been looking really good for Munster and all the vibes out of camp are that the forwards just love playing with him because he's so energetic, he gives direction, he demands much of them... We haven't seen that much of him in European rugby but you'd imagine that Farrell and his team wouldn't have picked him if they didn't see something in him and were getting positive sound-bites from the coaches at Munster.

"We're at a really good places for 9s in Ireland, at present," O'Leary added. "And the thing to now figure out is who is number two to Murray, and to give him a chance to push on and be a viable alternative come the next World Cup."

It is interesting to note that last part from O'Leary. For all the talk of new blood, he still sees Murray as the first-choice No.9 for the games against Scotland and England.