Youthful XV Andy Farrell could select for Ireland's next Test 3 weeks ago

Youthful XV Andy Farrell could select for Ireland's next Test

"Oh, I would hope so."

Before Ireland finished up their Six Nations campaign with a morale-boosting win over England, Andy Farrell was asked about possible summer Test matches for his side.

The Ireland head coach is hoping for a couple of summer Test matches to further work with his squad. The original plan - long before we had ever heard of Covid-19 - was a summer 2021 tour to the Pacific Islands for matches against Tonga and Samoa.

Ireland have not visited the Pacific Islands since 2004 so the tour would have been highly anticipated, at home and abroad. While those island nations will be gutted to miss out on those games, they have been boosted by World Rugby announcing they will support two teams from the area making a Super Rugby entry in 2022.

Farrell would be warmly welcomed into the British & Irish Lions fold, for the tour to South Africa, but would be inclined to stick about and work with the next generation of international players if some decent opposition could be sourced. If there are no summer Test matches, Farrell would have to wait almost eight months to get an Ireland squad together again for a significant chunk of time.

Craig Casey prior to the Six Nations match between Wales and Ireland at the Principality Stadium. (Photo by Gareth Everett/Sportsfile)

The IRFU could do with a couple of summer Test matches, too, as it would boost the coffers [although fans are still unlikely to be in attendance]. Japan are set to be in Europe to play a Lions warm-up game at Murrayfield so it would make sense to sound them out about getting bang for their travelling buck.

"To get that result against a very good side like England and to get the performance like we did just reiterates a few things, for the next time that we meet up," said Farrell after his side had flaked England 32-18 at the Aviva Stadium.

"We'll keep in contact between now and then but, like we always say, we feel that we are on the upwards regarding on own game coming together behind the scenes. If that translates to the field at the weekend is obviously debatable but we just solidified for us that we're on the right track so it was a chance to highlight that."

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Ireland's strong finish to the Six Nations - winning their final three games to finish third - has improved the Lions chances of several players. Conservative estimates have eight Ireland stars making Warren Gatland's touring squad, while as many as 12 could travel.

Leaving out the likely Irish Lions, and with one eye on the future, this is the Starting XV we would love to see if Ireland can arrange a summer Test, or two.

There are three Lions outsiders in our team - Hugo Keenan, Jacob Stockdale and Jack Conan - so alternatives have been included. The match-day squad is a mix of experience and lads capable of making the step-up in the next year.

OUR IRELAND XI

15. Hugo Keenan or Shane Daly (Leinster/Munster)
14. Jordan Larmour (Leinster)
13. Jimmy O'Brien (Leinster)
12. James Hume (Ulster)
11. Jacob Stockdale or Robert Baloucoune (Ulster)
10. Joey Carbery (Munster)
9. Craig Casey (Munster)

1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)
2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster)
3. Tom O'Toole (Ulster)
4. Fineen Wycherley (Munster)
5. Ryan Baird (Leinster)
6. Gavin Coombes (Munster)
7. Will Connors (Leinster)
8. Caelan Doris or Jack Conan (Leinster)

Subs: Kevin O'Byrne, James Cronin, Tom Clarkson, Gavin Thornbury, Jack O'Donoghue, Luke McGrath, Harry Byrne, Shane Daly or Mike Lowry.