Eddie O'Sullivan's Ireland team to play New Zealand contains three huge calls 11 months ago

Eddie O'Sullivan's Ireland team to play New Zealand contains three huge calls

"He brings an extra dimension around the field."

Tough ones to take for the likes of Dan Leavy, Sean O'Brien, James Ryan and Kieran Marmion, to name four.

Most Ireland fans could take a good dart at predicting their side's starting 15 to face New Zealand on November 17. Picking 10 or 11 of the starting XV would bring broad agreement but there are certainly a few positions up for grabs.

Depending on how well both nations fare at the 2019 World Cup, Ireland could face the All Blacks in either the quarter final or final. If Steve Hansen's men slip up against England, on Saturday, the November 17 Guinness Series encounter would be with the world no.1 spot on the line.

Looking ahead to that game, after Ireland's 54-7 win over Italy, Eddie O'Sullivan selected his XV to face New Zealand on eir Sport. The former Ireland head coach made some big calls at scrum-half, openside and in the second row.

"I think Joe might go with Josh van der Flier as he needs an openside on the field," said O'Sullivan. "An out-and-out openside. The other option would be to put O'Mahony over there and put Sean O'Brien at 6. O'Mahony is a very good player, but he's not a 7... against New Zealand you need an openside."

Van der Flier may yet edge out Dan Leavy and Sean O'Brien, but it is worth noting that O'Brien has played much of his Test career at openside so there would be no need to switch O'Mahony if he was selected.

As for O'Sullivan's second row, it is bad news for Tadhg Beirne and, significantly, James Ryan. O'Sullivan said:

"In the big games, they need to lock-down the lineout and Devin Toner is a banker there. It's a big game against the All Blacks, who have a very good defensive lineout. They have to make sure the lineout fires well ad that's the starting point. Toner brings that predictability at that point.

"With Henderson as his running mate, he brings an extra dimension around the field. He's like a back row cum second row. Great feet; he's a good defensive lineout jumper and a great ball carrier."

Connacht's Kieran Marmion was left at Carton House, last week, to train under Joe Schmidt and get prepped - with several senior stars - for Argentina and New Zealand. Still, O'Sullivan would go for Luke McGrath against the world champions.

"McGrath, for me, is the guy that has put his hand up," he began.

"Okay, Marmion is probably going to play next week [against Argentina] but McGrath has a calmness about him at the moment and he's playing very smart."

O'Sullivan also praised McGrath's support lines in attack, slick distribution and noted that he has already built up a partnership, at Leinster, with Johnny Sexton.

As for the rest of his team, O'Sullivan is sticking with Rob Kearmey at fullback, over Jordan Larmour, and opting for Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw as his midfield pairing, with Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls on the wings.

EDDIE O'SULLIAN'S IRELAND XV

Cian Healy
Rory Best
Tadhg Furlong

Iain Henderson
Devin Toner

Peter O'Mahony
Josh van der Flier
CJ Stander

Luke McGrath
Johnny Sexton

Jacob Stockdale
Robbie Henshaw
Garry Ringrose
Keith Earls

Rob Kearney

Check out the full eir Sport clip here:

A big task awaits against Argentina but many of us are already peering past Los Pumas and eagerly awaiting New Zealand's arrival.