Search icon


07th Jan 2015

We select the Ireland team we want to start next month’s Six Nations

The title defence starts now

Patrick McCarry

Here we go again

Since Ireland claimed the 2014 Six Nations we have seen Brian O’Driscoll retire, witnessed comebacks then injury to Sean O’Brien, lost Cian Healy, Marty Moore and Dave Kilcoyne to serious injuries, gave Test debuts to eight new players and climbed to No3 in the world.

Joe Schmidt and his Irish players will not utter the words in public but, with two home ties against England and France following the opener against Italy, a good start could well set up a Grand Slam tilt.

Today marks one month from Ireland’s first game at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Injuries, form issues and players feeling their way back to first team action all contribute to our XV selection but we feel our team should still have enough to see off the Italians.

Front Row

Cian Healy 15/8/2014

Injuries to a host of props have thrown any form guide off-kilter. Cian Healy won’t be back for the Champions Cup matches but we still believe he’ll be ready for Italy. Rory Best remains the best bet at hooker although Sean Cronin would be itching at a chance to have a crack off the Italians. We are rolling out Mike Ross for what must his final Six Nations (he will be 36 in 2016) but the softly-spoken Cork native may surprise us yet.

Second Row

Paul O'Connell with Luke Jones 22/11/2014

We are not going to tinker with the successful 2014 partnership so Paul O’Connell and Devin Toner remain in tandem. Dan Tuohy is back in action and Dave Foley did well during the Guinness Series but Iain Henderson, who will hopefully get Champions Cup game-time, is our hulking back-up.

Back Row

Devin Toner, Paul O'Connell and Rhys Ruddock 8/11/2014

The hope is that Rhys Ruddock recovers well from his arm fracture to resume his place in a back row, with Peter O’Mahony and Jamie Heaslip, that did for Australia and South Africa. Sean O’Brien won’t feature in Leinster’s Champions Cup matches but, once proven as fit, we would slot him back in at openside and drop Ruddock to the bench.

Chris Henry’s personal well-being has taken priority over any rush to get him back for province and country. Luckily, Schmidt can call on the likes of Dominic Ryan, Tommy O’Donnell, Jordi Murphy, Robin Copeland, Robbie Diack and Jack Conan to cover the back row.


Paul O'Connell and Conor Murray 21/11/2014

Conor Murray has been Ireland’s form player for over two years and may now be confidently bracketed as world-class. Johnny Sexton looks set to miss the opener after concussion worries so Ian Madigan, who is now back in Leinster’s 10 jersey, gets the start.


This is one era where Schmidt can be expected to stick with a pairing and give them time to bed in. One suspects Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne would be the coach’s preferred option but Gordon D’Arcy’s defensive nous cannot be overlooked. We are going with Henshaw-D’Arcy and placing Fergus McFadden on the bench to cover midfield, wing and fullback. No pressure Ferg.

Back Three

Tommy Bowe scores their second try despite Bryan Habana 8/11/2014

Rob Kearney is untouchable in his current form for Ireland although his outings with Leinster have been, at times, patchy. Tommy Bowe will be eased into the championship as Ulster are out of Champions Cup contention while Dave Kearney or Andrew Trimble, if fit, may nudge Simon Zebo back onto the bench. It would be a harsh call but Kearney the younger is a Schmidt favourite and Trimble had an epic 2014.

SportsJOE’s Ireland team to face Italy: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney; Ian Madigan, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell (c); Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Marty Moore, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Kieran Marmion, Ian Keatley, Fergus McFadden.

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?