Uncapped gems, outside bets and must-haves in Ireland's Six Nations squad
"Obviously, I'm being a bit Munster-esque here."
Italy have been the first to show their Six Nations hand, naming their squad for the opening rounds of the 2023 championship. England are due to name their squad next Monday while Wales and Ireland will follow in the days after.
In 2022, Andy Farrell named a 37-man squad for the opening rounds of the championship. As there were United Rugby Championship games to be made up, last season, Connacht's Cian Prendergast was the only 'development player' included. Late in the championship, Farrell did get some Leinster heads, such as Ross Molony, in for training sessions.
We are in a World Cup year so Farrell may not veer too much from the group of players he has called upon for the last 12 months. The Ireland head coach has been known to surprise the media, and fans, with left-field selections so there could be some bolters in his first squad of 2023.
On the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 1:09:30 below], Greg O'Shea, Lindsay Peat and Jason Hennessy discussed the impending squad announcement, and uncapped players that could make it in that way or as development call-ups.
'Oh my God, Pat has collapsed!'
The biggest worry for most Ireland supporters, recently, was Johnny Sexton undergoing a cheekbone 'procedure' after taking a cranium-full from Jarrad Butler (more down to his upright tackle technique than anything).
While Sexton looks set to be available for Ireland's Six Nations championship opener against Wales, both Jason Hennessy and Lindsay Peat argued that last year's Triple Crown winners could benefit more from their captain not starting some games.
"We'd benefit more from having Jack Crowley, Joey Carbery and Ross Byrne in playing the whole Six Nations," said Hennessy, "than we would then winning a Grand Slam with Johnny Sexton. And I stand by that, we would benefit more. And that sounds horrible but, look lads, we've done it. We've had the fairytales (in 2009 and 2018).
"Oh my God," Lindsay Peat exclaimed as I sat ashen-faced in the House of Rugby studio, "Pat has collapsed!"
"Johnny is going to play," O'Shea sensibly said, "and hopefully the other lads, Crowley and Carbery, will play some games as well."
The consensus from the trio was that Farrell would call upon Sexton, Crowley and Carbery as his three No.10s, while Lindsay Peat also pressed the cases for Jack Conan and Ryan Baird. As for another must-have, Hennessy said no more than was needed - "Peter O'Mahony is just... he's Peter O'Mahony!"
In terms of what one might call outside selection shouts, four Munster names were mentioned. O'Shea commented:
"One for me that's just kind of sticking out is Gavin Coombes, I think might slip in. Even though this back row is really kind of stacked. I just think he's playing so well. He's in good form and he's scoring tries every week for Munster.
"Maybe someone like Calvin Nash might get in again. I know he was in the last squad. I think someone like that and they might actually play them this time. I think that's obviously very Munster-esque there now as well."
Not many uncapped players will make Andy Farrell's squad for the opening rounds of the 2023 Six Nations. Joe McCarthy (Leinster) and Calvin Nash (Munster) do not have a Test outing yet but may be the fresh(er) faces.
If Farrell is looking at development players, the likes of Ethan McIlroy, Jamie Osborne, Stewart Moore and Nathan Doak would hope to get a call down to the IRFU High Performance Centre. Jason Hennessy suggested another couple of Munster names:
"I think he might bring in a few as well, like what he did before - a kind of a separate squad of seven or eight younger players. I’d maybe look at someone like Josh Wycherley, maybe even bring in someone like Edwin Edogbo and them, give them a bit of training because you know the way normally they like to bring in, like Cian Prendergast came in last year.
"It happened to Craig Casey two years ago where you're not quite in the squad but you get to train with the big boys. And he will have learned an awful lot from that."
"I’d like to see Edwin Edogbo in to be honest," said Lindsay Peat. "He’s very like James Ryan - he's such a big guy, big, strong man."
What may hinder Edogbo is he is only getting back to full fitness after a spell on the sidelines. The Ulster players have to fulfil a fixture against Sharks so Farrell may look to the other provinces, in terms of sharing out invites to the HPC.
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