The two toughest calls in Ireland team to face Wales are in the backline
"I wish Jacob Stockade well but I'm not too confident, to be honest."
When it comes to debating the Ireland team to face Wales in the 2023 Six Nations opener, against Wales, the forward pack all but selects itself. It is the backline that has the most live competition.
Iain Henderson is fit again and will be pressing hard to start in Cardiff, but Andy Farrell is likely to stick with Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan. Elsewhere in the pack, Farrell will be on to a winner, either way, but should towards starting Dan Sheehan and bringing Ronan Kelleher off the bench.
The backline has a few locks - all of them Leinster - while Lindsay Peat [quoted above] favours Jimmy O'Brien over Jacob Stockade if James Lowe is eased back in. The 30-year-old is just back from a trip back to New Zealand and last started on December 26th against Munster.
On the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 63:15 below], Ireland's backline for the Six Nations was discussed, with the left wing and inside centre positions up for the most debate.
Selecting a backline for the Ireland team
"I would like to see Jamie Osborne feature," said Lindsay Peat when discussing Ireland's only uncapped player in their latest Six Nations squad.
The Naas RFC clubman is in fine form for Leinster and will be in the conversation for the centre spots now that Robbie Henshaw is out (rehabbing an injured wrist), Bundee Aki is short of game-time and James Hume is out in the cold.
"I'd love to see a partnership, at some stage of the Six Nations, between Stuart McCloskey and Garry Ringrose," said Jason Hennessy. "With the form Ringrose is in and the way McCloskey runs at people and brings so many people into the game. He takes out players and has a great offload and a great passing range. It could be magic."
To me, Jamison Gibson-Park and Johnny Sexton are a lock for 9 and 10, with Hugo Keenan primed for another fullback start. Mack Hansen should start, most likely on the right wing, and Jimmy O'Brien could push James Lowe close for the 11 jersey.
After hashing it out in the House of Rugby studio, this is the Ireland team the panel agreed on for that opening game against Wales.
IRELAND TEAM (House of Rugby selection)
15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Jamison Gibson-Park
1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris
Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O'Brien
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