Mike Lowry and Peter O'Mahony in First Test contention as Ireland shuffle deck 1 month ago

Mike Lowry and Peter O'Mahony in First Test contention as Ireland shuffle deck

One solution could be switching Hugo Keenan to the right wing and starting another fullback.

Not long after his team to face the Maori All Blacks was named, Ireland coach Andy Farrell all but confirmed most of his Test starters for the next game. The arrows are pointing up for a veteran and a relative newcomer - Mike Lowry and Peter O'Mahony.

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"We know our preparation is completely different to what it would normally be," Farrell said.

"We are training with a squad of 23 guys who are getting ready for a Maori game and then we’ve got 13 or 14 guys who are getting ready for a Test match.

"So, the Test match boys are not training with the subs etc. We are waiting to see how the Wednesday night game goes, who is going to get picked to take to the field in the 23 for the Test match."

With Iain Henderson flying home in a couple of days, after his knee injury, Mack Hansen isolating after his positive Covid test and Rob Herring nursing an injury, these are the Test lads that are doing altered training:

Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris, Jamison Gibson Park, Johnny Sexton, James Lowe, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan.

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There has been no official release mentioning an injury to Harry Byrne, but the Leinster outhalf has not taken a full part in recent training runs. Byrne not being in the Maori match-day squad may not mean, then, that he covers outhalf and centre while Joey Carbery starts at fullback.

Johnny Sexton Johnny Sexton, left, and Joey Carbery of Ireland pictured after the November 2021 win over New Zealand, at Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

Four possibilities for the 14 jersey

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That does not mean, however, that Carbery is out of the running for a start in the 15 jersey.

Under New Zealand Covid guidelines, Mack Hansen must spend 'at least seven days' in isolation from when he first tested positive for the virus, or the day he first had symptoms. His positive test was only confirmed on Monday, though, so chances of him playing at Eden Park must be remote.

Farrell could go with three players, all set to be involved against the Maori All Blacks, for the right wing slot - Jordan Larmour, Keith Earls and Jimmy O'Brien. That would leave Keenan at fullback and lessen the disruptions.

Farrell has named Mike Lowry on his bench for Wednesday, though. With Larmour, Earls and O'Brien all getting starts, it could well mean the Ulster player gets the fullback berth for the First Test, with Keenan switching to the right wing.

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Of course, Ciarán Frawley could cover outhalf from the Ireland replacements bench on Saturday, freeing up Carbery for his first fullback start in over four years, but Lowry would be the better option.

POSSIBLE IRELAND TEAM TO FACE NEW ZEALAND

15. Mike Lowry
14. Hugo Keenan
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
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: Dave Heffernan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls.

All will be revealed in the early Irish hours of Thursday morning when Farrell announces his second team in the space of 48 hours.

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