'He's going to be one of our most important players' – Three Irish Rugby players to watch in 2023
“I just think he's going to be pivotal, to be honest”
2022 wasn't a bad year for Irish Rugby, all things considered. It began with a second-place finish in the Six Nations, losing only to France in Paris, in a game they very nearly could have won, and only got better from there.
Next up was a history-making 2-1 series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand, with a win over the Maori All Blacks side midweek to add to the celebrations, before rounding the year off with a win over the world champions Springboks, as Andy Farrell's men won all three of their Autumn Nations fixtures.
But 2023 will be a different beast. Ireland will be hoping to go one better in the Six Nations and bring home a first Grand Slam since 2018 with France and England at home, before the small matter of the World Cup on the horizon.
Looking ahead on what's to come, the House of Rugby crew of Greg O'Shea, Lindsay Peat and myself, had a chat on this week's show about the players we think will be pivotal for Ireland over the next 12 months or so.
First up was Lindsay, who went for one of Irish Rugby's great stalwarts...
“I'm gonna be truthful, the first person that came to mind for me, was Peter O'Mahony,” Peat said.
“I actually think, with Ireland especially, he's back playing, some of his best rugby! He'd obviously fight with a pillowcase, but he's kind of doing that and not upsetting anyone around him. He's picking his moments.
“I mean he's absolutely fantastic at the breakdown... he's just so central – scrum, lineout, tactically.
“He's been in the captaincy role for Munster and Ireland, and I just think he's going to be pivotal, to be honest, in this upcoming year, for Munster and Ireland.”
Up next was me, and I couldn't look any further than Garry Ringrose, who has been in scintillating form for club and country over the last few months.
“I'm gonna go with an easy enough one, but I think he's probably going to be one of the most important players for Ireland over the next 12 months – and that's Garry Ringrose,” I said.
“He's just so damn good at the moment. He has elevated himself to a level, that I honestly did not think he was capable of.
“I thought we'd kinda already seen the best of Garry Ringrose. When he first burst onto the scene, everyone was like 'he's the next Brian O'Driscoll' and he kind of faltered a bit, but he was always a really, really good centre. But in the last six months or so he's turned into a 'world class' centre.
“I think you can put Garry Ringrose now up there alongside Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende – he's that bloody good. And I don't think you could have said that six months ago.”
And finally, host Greg O'Shea reckons the recently returned James Lowe will be a huge asset for Irish Rugby in the coming year.
“Someone I want to watch and keep an eye on, he's back on the scene for Leinster and probably the Irish team, is James Lowe.” O'Shea said.
“I think he's going to be very pivotal. The fact that he was out for so long and came back into the Leinster team as if he has never been gone. He's been playing out of his skin, and obviously really tuned in.
“I'd say cos he's been sitting back watching the likes of Mack Hansen, Jimmy O'Brien and Robert Baloucoune, all these guys getting chances and been like 'that's my jersey!'”
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