Who caught the eye of starting for the Irish rugby team in the November internationals. Two weeks ago, we were treated to a Munster-Leinster classic. Then, Connacht turned on the style against Ulster.
Last weekend there was less to play for. However, we still got a look at Leinster’s strength in depth. Meanwhile, Munster showed us why they’re no underdogs going into their semi-final on Friday. Andy Farrell will have watched all of these games unfold with great interest.
There are still two 6 Nations games to be played and another tournament to follow in 2020. Farrell will have to use all the tools at his disposal if he is to go the distance in both. With that in mind, we take a look at the players putting their hands up while on club duty.
💥 2020 Guinness Six Nations Restart 💥
We're delighted to announce the dates for the four remaining 2020 Guinness Six Nations fixtures.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) August 5, 2020
A perfect record in the league before lockdown hasn’t been undone in the two games since. Cullen used last weekend’s game against Ulster to rotate his squad. This could have easily gone unnoticed though as their squad depth is more than impressive. Ross Byrne deputized for Sexton and showed why Farrell trusts him off the bench for international games. With a great eye for opportunity and a trusty boot, Byrne could be the main contender to take over the green number 10.
Gary Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw’s partnership in midfield is solidified. A neat link-up against Munster for Ringrose to tap down is a reminder of what a good pairing can do. Their familiarity as a duo may work in their favour in a tough battle for green jerseys.
Likewise, in the pack Irish hopefuls are only benefitting from playing together. Ryan Baird has continued to impress when called upon. Currently a ‘development’ player in the Irish squad, his status could be upgraded come November.
The return of Ian Madigan is the obvious talking point here. The former Bristol man is back on Irish soil in the hope of adding to his 31 international caps. He came in for Billy Burns against Leinster but has much to do to displace the 26-year-old.
Rob Herring continues to be the in-form hooker in the country. Meanwhile, young prop Tom O’Toole is one to watch.
John Cooney is unrelenting in his pursuit of a place in Farrell’s first 15. The sizzling scrum-half offers a lot that Murray doesn’t. His sharpness around the ruck and eye for an intercept are huge weapons. Unfortunately for him, these are ideal qualities for an impact sub.
Much of the attention was on new-signing De Allende in the last two games. Nonetheless, midfield partner Chris Farrell stole the show. Farrell’s considerable power and pace fits the current mould for an Irish center perfectly. Expect him to feature strongly in Farrell’s plans.
Keith Earls is improving with age and pre-lockdown form hasn’t disappeared. On the other side, Conway is making a good claim for international experience too. Four tries in two games will have done his chances no harm.
Up front, Niall Scannell is a man with a point to prove and has another game to do so. Tadhg Beirne has excelled when given the chance. With a lot of games to come, he may get a call from Farrell yet.
The only Irish team not to progress to the semi-finals. International contenders in the Connacht team could suffer from the lack of an extra game. Bundee Aki won’t be displaced easily from the Irish rugby team and big performances against Ulster and Munster prove it. Ultan Dillane is a figure who we may also see under Farrell before Christmas. Young, energetic, and a strong runner, Dillane has the potential to do damage.
Farrell is blessed by the fact that this season’s Pro14 is guaranteed at least one Irish team in the final. Now that the cobwebs are dusted off, there is no excuse for the semi-finals to disappoint. This is a year where squad depth is more important than ever. When it comes to handing out caps in November, Farrell is spoilt for choice.