The eight Ireland starters from Rome that should keep their jerseys for Scotland
"Garry Ringrose returning definitely cools a few defensive issues."
Ireland may have beaten Italy 34-20 and secured a bonus point before the half-time whistle, but there were so wrinkles that Andy Farrell will be keen to iron out.
The Ireland head coach was verging on incredulous when he was asked, in the post-match press conference, what Ireland needed to improve on if they were to have 'a chance against Scotland and England'.
Farrell reminded those in the room that Italy are clearly a team on the rise, and Ireland may have weathered some tricky second half moments but were currently 15 points from the full 15 on offer. "We played well against Wales and France, too, wouldn't you agree?"
For all of his positivity about his team - and there are plenty to hang a hat on - Farrell will be frustrated with his team not being as clinical inside the Italian 22 as they have been in recent games. Ireland have fallen off over 60 tackles in their last two matches, too, so that will be a big touch-point in the preparations for the Scotland and England games.
Over on Virgin Media, former Ireland winger Andrew Trimble agreed with host Joe Molloy about how crucial Garry Ringrose is to the Irish defence. Trimble also stated that Farrell will have a clearer idea of who he can trust, and not trust, in this World Cup year.
"You talk about expanding," he said. "I think it could get to the point where he doesn't want to expand any more - we've tested it enough, contract that back down!
"We're probably down to six first-choice players [against Italy], maybe seven in this team now. It just goes to prove that you don't always need to give guys opportunities as it'll just happen itself - they'll either be guys pushing for chances or someone will pick up a knock... they're in a really good position but I'd love to see a full-strength 15, and really see what they can do."
Andrew Trimble believes Andy Farrell has only six or seven first choice starting players in his squad now. #ITAvIRE | #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/JaB7PFDc03
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) February 25, 2023
Ireland players that should keep their jerseys
Andy Farrell expects many of his frontliners to be back in the selection mix for the Scotland game, at Murrayfield, in round four of the Six Nations.
Tadhg Beirne is out long-term but the likes of Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson-Park and Robbie Henshaw are all expected back. Farrell says we should see Tadhg Furlong back in training on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Looking ahead to the Scotland game, we are predicting that eight starters from Rome should retain their jerseys for the trip to Edinburgh. The close calls will be inside centre and hooker but, from this remove, we can see Dan Sheehan and a fit again Robbie Henshaw starting.
POSSIBLE IRELAND XV
15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray
1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris
Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Tom O'Toole, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Bundee Aki.
Ireland will release several of the round three squad back to their provinces for this weekend's United Rugby Championship matches.
At the start of next week, the IRFU will name a final squad for rounds four and five of the championship.
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