The four unluckiest players to miss out in our predicted Ireland squad 4 months ago

The four unluckiest players to miss out in our predicted Ireland squad

There could be more than 10 changes from the squad selected for last year's championship.

On Wednesday, Andy Farrell is expected to name his Ireland squad for the 2022 Six Nations. Going on past selections, anywhere between 35 and 38 players will get the call-up.

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With the provinces tipping along at a decent clip in the United Rugby Championship and the Champions Cup, and Ireland on an eight-game winning streak, Farrell has several selection headaches. The treatment table does not have too many Test stars on it right now, even if James Ryan and Tadhg Furlong both caused concern at the weekend.

Farrell's Ireland has a settled look to them. Johnny Sexton will remain captain and starting outhalf and Leinster's talented squad will get a high representation in the Six Nations squad(s) and starting XVs.

In trying to predict the squad Farrell will announce on Wednesday, we first selected 40 players and then pared the final selection back to 37. There were some tough deliberations in getting there.

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Ireland squad Ireland players, from left, James Lowe, Caelan Doris and Hugo Keenan during the national anthems, at the Aviva Stadium, in 2021. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile)

The four unluckiest players to miss out on our predicted Ireland squad

In late January of last year, Andy Farrell selected a 36-man squad for the first two rounds of the Six Nations. We are predicting a 37-man selection for the Scotland and France games [18 backs, 19 forwards].

In October 2021, there was a 38-man Ireland squad announced for the Autumn Nations Cup. Jamie Osborne [Leinster] and Thomas Ahern [Munster] were the selected 'development players' brought in to train with the senior players.

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From that squad, Joey Carbery [broken elbow] is definitely out of the opening rounds while Iain Henderson and Stuart McCloskey will both have to prove their fitness if they are to be included. Harry Byrne is liked by the Ireland coaches but has only played 98 minutes for Leinster this season and has not featured in a game since December 3.

We are expecting Robert Baloucoune to get a call-up, so that may bump out Munster's Shane Daly and Connacht winger Mack Hansen. Farrell has a big Simon Zebo call to make, and it may well be that Mike Lowry's recent form will see him jump the queue.

Robbie Henshaw has not played since December 3, too. He will hope to feature for Leinster against either Bath or Cardiff in the coming weeks. If he misses out, Ciarán Frawley could be included. Chris Farrell has been playing regularly for Munster and is a reliable option should Henshaw miss out, with Bundee Aki getting the inside centre shout.

Ireland squad

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Forward selection calls for Ireland squad

The fitness of Ryan and Furlong will be something Andy Farrell wants frequent updates on. Tadhg Beirne looks nailed-on for one lock position, but Iain Henderson has had injury issues after his Lions Tour.

Ryan Baird will definitely be included but, if Henderson and Ryan are struggling, will Farrell turn to the experienced Ultan Dillane? The Connacht star could definitely do a job, but he is off to France next season. If Henderson and Ryan are up against it, the uncapped Ross Molony could be a handy fall-back.

Connacht back-row Conor Oliver is pressing hard for inclusion but, with Caelan Doris and Jack Conan both looking like Ireland's No.6 and No.8 for the championship, Peter O'Mahony could primarily be selected as an openside. That would leave the door open for Gavin Coombes to be included again.

In terms of young players that may benefit from that 'development' call-up, Alex Kendellen [Munster], Cian Prendergast [Connacht] and Nathan Doak [Ulster] are all decent options. Thomas Ahern may get another invite as he is highly rated by the national coaches.

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Ireland squad for 2022 Six Nations

Backs (18)

Bundee Aki (Connacht)
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster)
Harry Byrne (Leinster)
Jack Carty (Connacht)
Craig Casey (Munster)
Andrew Conway (Munster)
Keith Earls (Munster)
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
James Hume (Ulster)
Hugo Keenan (Leinster)
Jordan Larmour (Leinster)
James Lowe (Leinster)
Mike Lowry (Ulster)
Conor Murray (Munster)
Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)

Forwards (19)

Ryan Baird (Leinster)
Finlay Bealham (Connacht)
Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
Jack Conan (Leinster)
Caelan Doris (Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
Gavin Coombes (Munster)
Cian Healy (Leinster)
Iain Henderson (Ulster)
Rob Herring (Ulster)
Rónan Kelleher (Leinster)
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)
Peter O’Mahony (Munster)
Tom O’Toole (Ulster)
Andrew Porter (Leinster)
James Ryan (Leinster)
Dan Sheehan (Leinster)
Nick Timoney (Ulster)
Josh van der Flier (Leinster)

*That leaves Conor Oliver, Stuart McCloskey, Ciarán Frawley and Shane Daly as our four unluckiest players to miss out