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25th Sep 2018

Ireland’s best XV when every player is fit has two big selection calls

Patrick McCarry

No room in the matchday 23 for a host of top quality players.

The pure, ungodly form of Dan Leavy since the turn of the year has got rugby fans debating whether the young Leinster flanker would hold off a fully fit Sean O’Brien.

O’Brien is a truly world-class operator when fit and firing but he has been out of regular action since December. The Carlow native was in great form on the Lions Tour to New Zealand but appeared to be playing through the Guinness Series and Champions Cup group stages in pain. Sure enough, he took a step back to have hip and shoulder issues dealt with.

On The Hard Yards, former Munster and Ireland centre James Downey addressed the Leavy vs. O’Brien matter [from 24:00 below].

“Leavy is everywhere, isn’t he? He’s just doesn’t slow down,” Downey marvelled.

“He’s got a hell of an engine on him and he has no regard for his body whatsoever; he just throws himself into every collision. You can see that with the amount of marks he comes out with. He’s also smart, as we saw with that try [against Saracens] and the ball he got back inside from James Ryan… he also had the acceleration, to get away and score, and made a couple of breaks from midfield. What a gem.

“We spoke about it before, during Ireland’s [Six Nations] games, that he started off third choice [openside]. But look at him now. He’s number one. If Sean or Josh van der Flier gets back, they’ll have to do a hell of a lot of work to shift him, or they’ll have to find a position to put Dan in.”

Injury then restricted Leavy to one appearance Down Under and it was Jordi Murphy and Jack Conan that got decent runs, while Peter O’Mahony featured at blindside in the final Test.

Schmidt, and Ireland, may not get to play with a fuller deck until the November internationals and the coach would ideally prefer to have in good nick for the visit of world champions New Zealand.

Conor Murray is currently out but expected to return in time for the Test window.

We had a go at selecting Ireland’s best XV were Schmidt to have every player in the country fit and ready to play. It just goes to show the talent Ireland now have at their disposal that these quality operators did not make our matchday 23 – Van der Flier, Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell, Andrew Conway, Luke McGrath, Sean Cronin, Jordi Murphy and Dave Kilcoyne.

As for our strongest squad, these men would take some beating. Just look at that bench…


15. Rob Kearney

14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Jacob Stockdale

10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong

4. James Ryan
5. Iain Henderson

6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Dan Leavy
8. CJ Stander

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Sean O’Brien, Kieran Marmion, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.

This matchday 23 is certainly one to fear but what are the odds Joe Schmidt would ever get all these men [above] fit?

Let us know what your Best Irish XV would be on social media or in the comments section on Facebook.

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