"Like the Jonah Lomu of Irish rugby" - 9 players to watch in 2022 2 weeks ago

"Like the Jonah Lomu of Irish rugby" - 9 players to watch in 2022

"He's too good not to start. Every game he plays, he's just incredible."

No sooner had the awards and garlands been handed out for 2021 than talk excitedly moved to the top Irish rugby players to watch in 2022.

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The new year brings new hope and a raft of trophies sitting in cabinets, and on pedestals, to be won. Every team - unless you are Bath or Zebre - has something to play for in club rugby and we have the Six Nations, in men and women's rugby, fast approaching.

By the end of this year, too, we will be raving about some players that may be starting off 2022 as outside shots, established stars that have rediscovered a spark, or young prospects with something to prove.

On the latest House of Rugby URC episode [LISTEN from 1:02:40 below], Darren Cave, Greg O'Shea and Jason Hennessy gave their take on the Irish rugby players we should keep a close eye on this year.

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MUNSTER* - Scott Buckley, Gavin Coombes & Daniel Okeke

The hooker from Kinsale made his senior debut in the Champions Cup win over Wasps, and picked up both a try and a man of the match award. Johann van Graan may look to ease Scott Buckley into regular senior action but Hennessy is excited to follow his progress of the 21-year-old, who he describes as a 'real star for the future'.

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Shannon club man Daniel Okeke [pictured above] also featured in that win over Wasps and looks a real back row handful. A powerful carrier and a guy that many in the province have tipped to make an impact.

Greg O'Shea acknowledges that Gavin Coombes is well established in the Munster team but feels 2022 could be the year he takes his game to the next level. "He's good enough to be starting in the Irish back row," O'Shea proclaimed.

LEINSTER - Scott Penny

Made his debut in November 2018 but is still only 22. Has already scored 17 tries in 31 senior games [25 starts] and would have had more appearances and, no doubt, tries were it not for an injury hold-up last season. Serious competition in the Leinster back row but capable of forcing more big game starts if Scott Penny gets a clear run at it. "He has all the tools in the locker," said Hennessy.

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CONNACHT - Conor Oliver

The Skerries native moved from Leinster to Munster and then headed to Connacht after being frustrated at the lack of consistent starts in Limerick. Was good last season and has kicked on again this season, impressing in both Europe and the United Rugby Championship.

"Conor Oliver is playing so well," Greg O'Shea commented, "and he needs to get into at least the Ireland training squad."

ULSTER - James Hume

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"Listen," said Darren Cave, "there will be a player that will come and play for Ulster [this year] that we haven't heard of. Some younger ones like Nathan Doak have half come through already.

"Those two recent Champions Cup games, against Clermont and Northampton, has shown me that James Hume has come and is knocking at the Test door. Potentially, he is now Ireland's fourth centre [after Aki, Henshaw and Ringrose]. I think he was that good. He was good against Leinster too. I think he could have overtaken Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell."

Irish rugby

IRELAND WOMEN - Beibhinn Parsons

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Having made her international debut at the age of 16, Beibhinn Parsons, now 20, is well established in the Ireland team now. Improving with each and every set of games, the winger will be let loose on the Women's Six Nations, later this year.

"She scores tries for fun," O'Shea stated. "She's like the Jonah Lomu of Irish rugby."

IRELAND - Jamison Gibson Park & Caelan Doris

"It will be interesting to keep an eye on him and see if he can keep up that form," said Hennessy, "as he was playing so well, in November, and was so important to the way Ireland played."

O'Shea argued that Jamison Gibson-Park is already established - and he is no spring chicken - but Hennessy made the fair point of how he needs to hit the Six Nations running as three-time Lion Conor Murray is a live option.

"Caelan Doris is too good not to start," O'Shea added. "Every game he plays, he's just incredible."

*Greg and Jason are both keen Munster aficionados so they went a bit in-depth with their predictions for the province! All told, Irish rugby is in good stead.

WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY URC HERE: