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How Ireland's 42 players capped by Andy Farrell ranked in 2020


Ireland's James Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland's James Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile

Caelan Doris. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Caelan Doris. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile


Ireland's James Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy Farrell has spread his net wide across 2020, capping 42 players and handing out 11 Ireland debuts.

Results wise, it was a middling year. The nature of the defeats away to England and France was worrying, but they went unbeaten at home and finished with a good win over Scotland.

At the end of it all, the coach has a better idea of what he's working with going into next year's Six Nations.

Some players took their opportunity, others found their chances frustratingly limited and a number of stalwarts kept their place in the pecking order.

Here's how they rated.

1. James Ryan

Matches 9, Minutes 702, Points 0

He hasn't been at his best since he returned from shoulder surgery, but the second-row is the most important player in the team right now and was Ireland's best player in their defeats to England and France. Now has captaincy experience under his belt, he consistently carries the fight to opposing sides even when Ireland are out-matched.


Caelan Doris. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Caelan Doris. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Caelan Doris. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

2. Caelan Doris

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Matches 7, Minutes 391, Points 0

There's a lot of hope being pinned on the young Mayo man's shoulders, but he's handled everything well so far. Impressing in your first season is even harder when the team is struggling for form, but he quickly became an important figure and an automatic starter.

3. CJ Stander

Matches 8, Minutes 625, Points 5

The main provider of go-forward ball in the team, the Munster back-row has been a consistent force in the side even allowing for a drop-off in standards against England and Georgia.


Johnny Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile

4. Johnny Sexton

Matches 7, Minutes 456, Points 69

Still the team's beating heart at 35, Sexton had a poor performance at Twickenham but played well on all of Ireland's good days. A pivotal figure despite his advancing years.

5. Peter O'Mahony

Matches 9, Minutes 523, Points 0

Dropped to the bench for Farrell's first match, he has responded by producing some of his best work in green, reinventing himself as an openside.

6. Hugo Keenan

Matches 6, Minutes 458, Points 15

Pretty much unmapped before the season started, his form out of lockdown earned him his place and he looks so, so comfortable at the level. Rarely puts a foot wrong.

7. Andrew Porter

Matches 9, Minutes 440, Points 5

An increasingly important figure in the team, he had a big autumn in Tadhg Furlong's absence. Scrum needs work, but his aggression and power are key.

8. Robbie Henshaw

Matches 7, Minutes 446, Points 10

That try in Paris is a reminder of what he can do and he looked sharp before injury interrupted his contribution. A clear run would see him rise through the ranks.

9. Keith Earls

Matches 6, Minutes 300, Points 10

Started a frustrating year injured but finished it with two tries to remind everybody that he's still got plenty to offer at 33. Wide game should suit him if Ireland can execute it.

10. Conor Murray

Matches 9, Minutes 490, Points 0

He's still not the player he was, but the coaches trust him above all others and he's seen off the clamour for John Cooney's inclusion. Increasingly influential as the year went on.

11. Rob Herring

Matches 8, Minutes 458, Points 0

Quietly grabbed hold of the No 2 shirt and there's no sign he'll give it up based on Saturday's efficiency out of touch. Not spectacular, but does his job.

12. Cian Healy

Matches 9, Minutes 463, Points 10

Still scoring tries at the end of a year of heavy involvement, there are signs Healy is not the force of old at scrum-time but nobody has forced him out just yet.

13. Tadhg Beirne

Matches 4, Minutes 218, Points 0

Squeezed out of selection for the final game, but the Munster lock - who missed the initial Six Nations with injury - played well this autumn and looks a live option at blindside.

14. Bundee Aki

Matches 7, Minutes 533, Points 5

Hauled ashore early in Paris, he hasn't had quite the influence on games that we know he's capable of. Still working hard and carrying harder, but struggles to rise above that.

15. Tadhg Furlong

Matches 3, Minutes 203, Points 5

His absence has reinforced his importance to this team. Handed additional leadership responsibilities by coach Farrell, the tighthead prop did well in February but hasn't been seen since after suffering back and calf problems.

16. Jordan Larmour

Matches 3, Minutes 224, Points 5

Started the three spring games and impressed in the first two, scoring an excellent try against Wales. Twickenham was a difficult day in the back-field and he still hasn't had a chance to make up for it due to a serious injury that ruled him out of the autumn.

17. Chris Farrell

Matches 5, Minutes 269, Points 0

When Ireland get him on the front foot he is one of their better attackers and he stepped in well for Garry Ringrose.

18. Jacob Stockdale

Matches 8, Minutes 582, Points 15

Only Ryan and Stander managed more minutes, nobody scored more tries and yet on the biggest days Stockdale made huge errors that cost the team dear. Talent is not in question.

19. Andrew Conway

Matches 6, Minutes 466, Points 5

One of Ireland's better players in the spring, lockdown came at a bad time for Conway who never quite hit the same heights when Ireland came back together. Appears to have slipped below Hugo Keenan in the pecking order.

20. Jamison Gibson-Park

Matches 5, Minutes 160, Points 0

A solid debut international season for the Kiwi scrum-half who did well in patches when thrown in to start at Twickenham.

21. Rónan Kelleher

Matches 6, Minutes 170, Points 0

Physically, he's ready but he needs to sort that throw out or else the bench is his role. Well able to mix it with the big guns if he can tighten his set-piece up.

22. Will Connors

Matches 5, Minutes 225, Points 5

Considering he only made his European debut in September, the Kildare native can be happy with his haul. Made an impressive debut against Italy, but hasn't been able to impose himself since.

23. Garry Ringrose

Matches 2, Minutes 67, Points 0

Injury has wrecked his international year and his absence has been a real problem for Ireland who miss his attacking class and defensive organisation.

24. Josh van der Flier

Matches 5, Minutes 306, Points 5

Back on the bench on Saturday, but his role has been increasingly peripheral as the year's gone on as his struggles against the biggest teams leave doubts over his future.

25. James Lowe

Matches 2, Minutes 160, Points 5

Exploded on to the scene on his debut against Wales, but struggled a week later as Ireland stepped up in class against England. Plenty to work with, but must learn that work-rate matters above all else at this level.

26. Quinn Roux

Matches 4, Minutes 174, Points 5

Missed the spring games, but now firmly part of the plans, the scrummaging tighthead was a powerful component of a dominant pack against Wales and Scotland but struggled against England.

27. Billy Burns

Matches 3, Minutes 93, Points 23

Niggling injuries denied him a full shot at it, but Burns did enough in each of his three appearances to suggest he's an option when Sexton's not around.

28. Iain Henderson

Matches 5, Minutes 283, Points 0

Clearly the first-choice lock along with Ryan, Henderson picked up a needless ban before the Six Nations finale that ruled him out. Good against Scotland before suffering a worrying knee injury.

29. Dave Heffernan

Matches 4, Minutes 79, Points 5

Firmly third-choice in the hooker pecking order, he's well able to use his size but must demonstrate security out of touch to keep his place.

30. Devin Toner

Matches 3, Minutes 87, Points 0

A heroic response to his World Cup disappointment, Toner was part of the early campaign but it looks like his Ireland career is now over.

31. Finlay Bealham

Matches 5, Minutes 114, Points 0

Not a factor before lockdown, he played in five of the six autumn games and started on the loosehead side against Georgia. It didn't go well.

32. Ed Byrne

Matches 3, Minutes 75, Points 0

Injury prevented him getting a start, but he did enough to suggest he'll be back after Christmas if he can get fit.

33. Stuart McCloskey

Matches 1, Minutes 80, Points 0

Has been part of the squad throughout, but only has one full match against Georgia to show for it. Played well, but clearly down the pecking order.

34. Dave Kilcoyne

Matches 3, Minutes 84, Points 0

Came off the bench in the first three matches, but injured since lockdown. Ireland miss his reliable big impact.

35. John Ryan

Matches 2, Minutes 46, Points 0

Not selected in the spring, Ryan got on to the bench for the last three games of the year and his consistent scrummaging is an asset.

36. John Cooney

Matches 3, Minutes 52, Points 2

Irish rugby's enigma. The Ulster star shoots the lights out for the northern province, but his form seems to count for little with the international set-up. Did well in the spring, but an ill-timed loss of form counted him out for this window.

37. Ultan Dillane

Matches 3, Minutes 55, Points 0

Used off the bench in the first three Six Nations games, but despite being part of the squad he has failed to break into the 23 during the recent window.

38. Ross Byrne

Matches 8, Minutes 180, Points 13

Has featured in all but one of the matches, but you couldn't argue he's advanced his international claims. Twickenham went badly and he seems to struggle with the step up.

39. Eric O'Sullivan

Matches 1, Minutes 15, Points 0

An impressive cameo in Ireland's final match suggests he'll be back after Christmas.

40. Max Deegan

Matches 1, Minutes 20, Points 0

Did well on his debut off the bench against Wales in February, but a serious knee injury denied him a chance to build on it after the restart.

41. Shane Daly

Matches 1, Minutes 18, Points 0

Won his first cap against Georgia and did pretty well. A good winter will earn him another shot.

42. Kieran Marmion

Matches 1, Minutes 23, Points 0

Might have expected more time considering his Connacht form, but one cap off the bench against Georgia was his lot.

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