Monday 26 September 2016

McCloskey leading young guns' Six Nations charge

Published 05/01/2016 | 02:30

Ulster's Stuart McCloskey has been tipped for Joe Schmidt's preliminary squad. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Ulster's Stuart McCloskey has been tipped for Joe Schmidt's preliminary squad. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

I'm not sure it really matters but Joe Schmidt has kept his preliminary squad from Sunday's meeting under wraps. Inevitably names have leaked out.

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These include Josh van der Flier, Stuart McCloskey, CJ Stander, Kieran Marmion, Garry Ringrose, Ultan Dillane and Luke Marshall. Whatever criticisms might be levelled at the head coach, acknowledging provincial form by way of national selection is not one.

He spreads the net far and wide then once he has them in camp judges on what he sees up close and personal in training. It is the one most noticeable departure between management regimes past and this now since the affable Kiwi took control.

On the assumption he has all those in attendance on Sunday fit and firing in a month's time then the problem areas, if we can address them as such, are centre and second row. The loss of Paul O'Connell to retirement and Iain Henderson to injury presents a massive void. Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner would smack as the most likely combination to take their place but I am delighted to see Dillane in the mix.

Beyond that Stander and McCloskey (alongside Robbie Henshaw) appear best placed but don't in the least underestimate Joe and the power of gut.

Irish Independent

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