The new era Ireland XV to start 2020 Six Nations against Scotland
It will soon be time to fully re-engage with the Guinness PRO14 and Champions Cup but, for today, let us look to Ireland's future.
Soldier Field in 2016. Lansdowne Road in 2018. Tokyo Stadium in 2019? In the end, it was not to be for Ireland.
Not long after helping New Zealand to a 46-14 victory over Ireland, Brodie Retallick was already reflecting on a hurtful defeat in his Test career. With England next up for the All Blacks, Retallick ruefully remembered losing to the English at Twickenham and you could tell the result still stung.
That game was back in November 2012.
This is how insanely driven by success, and spurred on by defeat, the Kiwis are. They are demented.
Steve Hansen, their coach, spoke about how many All Blacks sides are often defined by their failures. Most players in the current squad will have a winning % of between 85 to 90. When it comes to World Cups, not a single player in the current All Blacks side has ever lost a game.
And still, it is the memory of the losses that spur them on.
One wonders what will spur the Ireland side on when Andy Farrell takes up the reins. Joe Schmidt is part of our history now, and so is our captain for the last four years, Rory Best.
Irish rugby exists in this perpetual World Cup cycle and every time the tournament rolls around, we allow what happens there to define the previous three and a half years. We have travelled to World Cups in form, out of form and everywhere in between. It always ends in the same heartbreak.
The words 'World' and 'Cup' should be banned from the rugby vocabulary next year. Banning the words may be a touch harsh, admittedly, but let's all agree to just focus on what is in front of us and try enjoy ourselves again.
On Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery named 10 uncapped players that could help transform our playing style, and revive our fortunes, in 2020 and beyond.
Some of the calls are long-term while others should be considered to straight into the starting XV. To my mind, there are a heap of good players to work with and some promising ones to come in. We just need to loosen the shackles a bit and look forward to a year without teeming humidity and soap-bar balls.
Up next for Farrell and Ireland, in terms of fixtures, is Scotland coming to Dublin on February 1 for the opening game of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.
We are making a potential seven changes to the XV that started against New Zealand [if Dan Leavy is not ready to return to Test rugby, Peter O'Mahony starts at blindside]. We are looking for good footballers in our team so in come Rhys Marshall, Jordan Larmour, and Joey Carbery, while there are some punchy options on the bench.
UPDATE: Jack Conan is out for the next six months after surgery on a broken foot, opening the door for CJ Stander again.
Our Ireland XV to face Scotland
15. Joey Carbery
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Chris Farrell
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray
1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rhys Marshall*
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. James Ryan (captain)
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Dan Leavy/Peter O'Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ultan Dillane, Scott Penny, Caolin Blade*, Michael Lowry*, Andrew Conway.
In the wider squad, we'd also love to include the likes of Scott Penny, Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune, Jimmy O'Brien, Shane Daly, Ronan Kelleher and Ryan Baird too.
We can but dream!
*Denotes uncapped player
WATCH 'HOUSE OF RUGBY LIVE IN LIMERICK' HERE:
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The latest episode sees Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery look back on Ireland's World Cup exit to New Zealand.