Hugo Keenan gets massive endorsement ahead of Ireland team announcement
"Sometimes we have to pretend we don't know the team to you guys, but we actually don't know what the team is, at the moment!"
Johnny Sexton was talking about his Leinster teammate Hugo Keenan, this afternoon, when he made that aside. If the 24-year-old ends up in the Ireland XV, when it is named tomorrow, it would be a surprise to only those that don't know him. Sexton, and many others, feel he is ready.
With Jordan Larmour ruled out for the next 16 weeks, after a shoulder dislocation in a league win over Treviso, and James Lowe not yet Irish-qualified, there is a potential spot in the back three to be had. Robbie Henshaw, Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway and Shane Daly are all in the Ireland squad for these remaining 2020 Guinness Six Nations games, but Keenan's name is getting bandied about, and with justification.
Having ripped it up in pre-season with Leinster - setting the province's fastest Bronco time - Keenan has looked an assured presence at fullback and started both the Guinness PRO14 final and the Champions Cup quarter final against Saracens.
On the latest episode of, House of Rugby Ireland, former Leinster star Fergus McFadden outlined [from 46:00 below] why Keenan would be a solid option to start at No.15 against Italy.
"I think Hugo Keenan deserves his chance at fullback," says McFadden. "The opportunity has presented itself now.
"Jordan Larmour was playing outstandingly well at fullback but now, unfortunately, he picked up the injury, which will keep him out for quite a while. But with Hugo, reward him for how well he has played.
"You've then, obviously, got a choice of Conway, Daly and Stockdale [for back three] as Lowe isn't qualified just yet. Shane Daly has done brilliantly well for Munster, but I think Andy Farrell might go Stockdale on the left and Conway on the right. With Keenan, then, at fullback, I think that is a really strong combination."
Ian Madigan believes Stockdale would be well worth considering at fullback as he is a left-footer and has a good boot on him, as well as all his other attacking skills and airborne abilities.
On how the uncapped Keenan is faring in his first ever Ireland camp, Sexton commented, "He's picked up where he left off in Leinster, which was outstanding.
"He’s been excellent for Leinster since getting his chance. Whether he’s on the wing or 15, he’s gotten into the squad and he’s pushing now to try and get in the team.
"I can’t say he deserves it more than anyone else because I don’t see what goes on in the other provinces, but the hard work he’s done for Leinster... whether the coaches think he’s ready to go or not, he’s definitely put his hand up in training and doing all the right things."
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