Only one Irish representative in English newspaper's combined Six Nations XV
Published 27/01/2016 | 19:53
A ball is yet to be kicked or a ruck cleaned out, but the hypotheticals are already gone into overdrive for the forthcoming Six Nations.
Evidently, history counts for little in the eyes of Mick Cleary from the Daily Telegraph. Despite chasing a third consecutive championship, Ireland can boast only one representative in his Six Nations combination XV.
Newly appointed skipper Rory Best gets the nod at hooker in a side that is dominated by a seven-man Welsh contingent.
Like Ireland, traditional minnows Italy and Scotland manage just a single player apiece; the totemic Sergio Parisse at number eight and place-kicking scrum half Greig Laidlaw respectively.
Mike Brown slots in at full-back ahead of Rob Kearney, Stuart Hogg and Scott Spedding. The back three is completed by Anthony Watson and the behemoth that is George North.
Wesley Fofana is played out of position at second centre and partnered in midfield by Jamie Roberts, though Robbie Henshaw could rightly feel aggrieved by that call.
Following a fine World Cup and excellent subsequent form for the Ospreys, Dan Biggar beats out Johnny Sexton for the number 10 jersey.
The grisly Gethin Jenkins and France’s Rabah Slimani prop down between Best. The engine room comprises the equally consistent Alun Wyn Jones and Joe Launchbury, while the Welsh duo of Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton flank the talismanic Parisse.
Combined XV: Mike Brown (England), Anthony Watson (England), Wesley Fofana (France), Jamie Roberts (Wales), George North (Wales), Dan Biggar (Wales) , Greig Laidlaw (Scotland), Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Rory Best (Ireland), Rabah Slimani (France), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Joe Launchbury (England), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sam Warburton (Wales), Sergio Parisse (Italy).