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Pretenders line out


Garry Ringrose in action against Munster at Thomond Park last Sunday

Garry Ringrose in action against Munster at Thomond Park last Sunday

Garry Ringrose in action against Munster at Thomond Park last Sunday

To paraphrase Brian O'Driscoll, you "could do a whole lot worse" than look to the future against Wales on February 7.

There are men who have hinted at real impact, physical or otherwise, in the provincial environments since the end of the World Cup.

This is the time to see if they can shine.


It wasn't that long ago that the 2012 U20 World Cup Player nominee JJ Hanrahan was allowed to leave Munster unloved and under-utilised.

Now that Ian Keatley has lost his form and Hanrahan has already been able to push the under-rated Stephen Myler hard at Northampton Saints, he looks like what he always looked like - the one that got away.

Okay, Garry Ringrose is going nowhere, in terms of the transfer market, any time soon, especially with Ben Te'o leaving the number thirteen shirt as an open contest.

The 2014 U20 World Cup Player nominee, just 20, is a precious commodity not to be traded hastily. He is a highly-skilled, quick learner, natural decision-maker with and without the ball.

He must be licking his lips at the prospect of Te'o leaving Leinster in the summer.

The question is: is he ready for the increase in the 3Ps - the physicality, the pressure and the pace of international rugby?


The under-the-radar openside was rightly lauded by management as Leinster's most consistent player this season.

However, the return of Sean O'Brien against Munster showed the 22-year-old that there are parts of this brutal sport that can't be learned.

O'Brien would have been simmering away at all the words written and said about the young pretender.

Van der Flier is a genuine openside prospect with all the attributes necessary to shadow O'Brien.


Size-wise, the 23 year-old late bloomer out of Bangor Grammar, weighing in at 6'4" and 17 stones, has been impressing this season the way Iain Henderson did last.

He is the sort of specimen Ireland is looking for to take some of the burden of the heavy lifting off Robbie Henshaw.

But the improvement in his detail has been quite something.

The footwork can be nimble, the handling can take the eye.

He demands attention for his speciality for breaking the gain-line, even though the possible return of Jared Payne and the almost certain availability of Henshaw may delay his eventual rise to international class.


The Munster captain is a punishing number eight or blindside flanker in the mould of so many South Africans.

The 25-year-old just keeps on coming back for more even when driven backwards and off his feet.

When others wilted against Leinster last Sunday, he was still there standing tall.

Stander will push either Rhys Ruddock or Jamie Heaslip for a back row jersey.