Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ireland's Six Nations XV: Some big names are going to be left disappointed by Joe Schmidt in 2017

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

After a stellar November campaign that saw Ireland add the scalps of the All Blacks and Australia to that of South Africa in 2016, Irish rugby couldn't be in a better place heading into the new year.

Sure, Joe Schmidt would undoubtedly like to have more cover for his star half-backs, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, but everywhere else on the team looks to be well stocked as the Ireland coach keeps his vow to build more strength in depth, which cost the team dearly when missing five front-liners for last autumn's World Cup quarter-final.

Read more: Fears growing for Payne's season after kidney injury

One downside to the increased number of options is that Schmidt will be forced to omit a host of big names, some of whom have performed wonders in an Ireland jersey, and others who have yet to be given a proper chance due to the sizable queue in their position.

Peter O'Mahony is one star player who, despite an inspired cameo off the bench against Australia, could miss out come Six Nations time if Schmidt has a fully fit squad.

The recent injury to Jared Payne will give Garry Ringrose a chance to build his experience at his favoured position and while Sexton is currently nursing a hamstring injury, he is likely to be ready for the Six Nations in February.

The injury to Payne means that Rob Kearney will likely hold onto his fullback spot, since Schmidt has always chosen the Leinster back when fit. That likely means Trimble and Zebo will continue on the wings, with the latter enjoying a brilliant spell with the ball in hand during November.

If Schmidt does move away from Kearney, we could see Zebo at fullback with Earls taking the vacant spot on the left wing, where he performed so well against Australia.

Ireland's pack has developed into one of the world's most feared units, and the eight that were initially picked to start against Australia will likely be seen again in the Six Nations opener at Murrayfield if all are healthy.

Here is the Ireland squad we could see for that clash with Scotland on 4 February.

15. Rob Kearney

14. Andrew Trimble

13. Garry Ringrose

12. Robbie Henshaw

11. Simon Zebo

10. Johnny Sexton

9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath

2. Rory Best

3. Tadhg Furlong

4. Devin Toner

5. Iain Henderson

6. CJ Stander

7. Sean O'Brien

8. Jamie Heaslip

 

16. Sean Cronin

17. Cian Healy

18. Finlay Bealham

19. Ultan Dillane

20. Josh van der Flier

21. Kieran Marmion

22. Paddy Jackson

23. Keith Earls

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