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05th Feb 2023

Matt Williams wants two changes and Peter O’Mahony benched for Ireland vs. France

Patrick McCarry

Matt Williams

“He was superb today.”

Ireland ran amok in Cardiff to start off their Six Nations challenge in emphatic style. Andy Farrell’s side won 34-10 at the Principality Stadium but Matt Williams is keen for changes.

Over on Virgin Media, Joe Molloy asked if Conor Murray should be retained if Jamison Gibson-Park was not deemed fit to start against Les Bleus. Williams gave the Munster scrumhalf ‘his credit’ and agreed that he should retain the No.9 jersey.

There was some chatter around Mack Hansen but Shane Horgan argued that the Connacht winger had some “outstanding moments” and merits another start. Williams wondered aloud if Hansen had been given ‘a kick up the backside’ at half-time as his performance in the second stanza was much better.

When it came to the pack, Williams suggested two changes [one player, one positional] ahead of next Saturday’s crucial game against France. Conscious of a big French pack coming to Dublin, the former Leinster and Scotland coach said:

“Peter O’Mahony was very quiet. He has played very, very well over 2022. He was very quiet today.

“Iain Henderson is there. The question has to be asked, for next week – does O’Mahony come back to the bench? Do you put Henderson into the second row and move Tadhg Beirne to 6? I don’t know if that is going to happen but it is a legitimate question to ask. It’s a bigger French pack so will that be something they look at.

“I do think, eventually, Beirne is going to be an international 6. It’s just a matter of getting another second-rower in that is fit and ready to take his place there. Personally, I think Tadhg Beirne’s best position is 6 because it allows him to get his hand on the ball at the ruck more, and he’s brilliant at it.”

Matt WilliamsJonathan Sexton, left, and Peter O’Mahony. (Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile)

Praise for Caelan Doris

Peter O’Mahony did not exactly rip up the stat sheets against Wales but he was imperious in the lineout, made five carries and stuck nine tackles in his 60 minutes on the field.

Rob Kearney put forward the option of moving Caelan Doris to 6 and bringing in Jack Conan and his ‘few more kilos’ but did note that Doris has ‘gone to a whole new level’ since being given the No.8 jersey. Horgan agreed that the “exceptional” Doris needed to remain at 8.

The former Leinster and Ireland winger also praised Stuart McCloskey and backed the Ulster centre to start alongside Garry Ringrose again, next weekend.

MATT WILLIAMS’ IRELAND TEAM

15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Tadhg Beirne
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris

Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy and Jamison Gibson-Park may all be back and cleared to play against France, next weekend. Andy Farrell will name his team on Thursday afternoon.

Ireland are top of the Six Nations standings after their big win over Wales. Scotland are next after their win over England, at Twickenham.

France were given a scare by Italy in their opening game but a Mathieu Jalibert try, in the final 10 minutes, gave them a 29-24 and a try-scoring bonus point.

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