Thursday 22 March 2018

Here are the options available to Joe Schmidt to replace Robbie Henshaw

Chris Farrell, Garry Ringrose and Rory Scannell
Chris Farrell, Garry Ringrose and Rory Scannell
Chris Farrell has recovered from a knee injury. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Over the last couple of years, Robbie Henshaw has gradually become one of Leinster and Ireland's most under-rated players, but perhaps in the coming months, his true value will be fully appreciated.

The shoulder injury that will keep him out of the remainder of the Six Nations is a serious blow to Joe Schmidt, who certainly knows how important the Athlone man is to his plans.

The 24-year old has become a real defensive leader for Ireland in much the same vein as his fellow stricken midfielder Jared Payne has often been.

Henshaw leaves a big void that needs filling - below are the runners and riders in the mix to replace him.

Chris Farrell

The case for: The 24-year-old was one of the standout players for Ireland in the Autumn series and Schmidt was suitable impressed by what he saw.

Farrell has slotted in seamlessly at Munster and brings a much-needed physical edge to midfield.

His defence is solid and his distribution is good.

It was perhaps telling that he was one of the extra bodies in the squad for last week's win over Italy.

Schmidt kept in constant contact with Farrell while he was with Grenoble and we have seen the benefits of that communication this season.

Having already played alongside Bundee Aki against Argentina in November, Farrell leads the way in the list of potential replacements.


The case against: He picked up a knee injury in November and subsequently missed almost six weeks.

Farrell has played three times since his return, including two Champions Cup clashes, which should be enough game time, in Schmidt's eyes.


Garry Ringrose

The case for: On his day, Ringrose is still the best outside centre in the country and he has plenty of credit in the bank.

The 23-year-old was a real leader for Schmidt on last summer's tour, and by now, everyone knows the world class moments he is capable of.


The case against: Ringrose has had a torrid time with injury since the summer and after undergoing shoulder surgery, he required another procedure on his ankle recently.

The Leinster midfielder would be the first to admit that he was rusty when he returned before Christmas, and as well as that, he has never played with Aki before. Schmidt knows that it would be a big risk to throw him in against Wales.


Rory Scannell

The case for: Perhaps only fully appreciated in Munster, Scannell has long been one of his province's most consistent performers.

The Cork native is an excellent play-maker and has the ability to get the best out of those around him.

Although he didn't feature, Scannell was brought to Paris as an extra player. He performed well on the summer tour and can count himself extremely unlucky not to have featured since.

The case against: Being overlooked by Schmidt for the Autumn series doesn't bode well for Scannell's chances of earning a recall next weekend.

If the Kiwi coach was looking at pushing Aki to 13, Scannell would surely be seriously considered but as it is, it seems that Schmidt will look for a direct replacement at outside centre.


Keith Earls

The case for: The Moyross flyer has done a job for Ireland in midfield plenty of times in the past and was called upon to do so again last weekend.

Earls is one of Schmidt's most reliable performers and he may trust him to do a job there against Wales.

The case against: Simply put, centre is not Earls' best position and right now, he is unquestionably the form winger in the country.

Moving the 30-year-old out of position would upset the balance of the backline even further, and given that he has only started one game in the number 13 jersey this season, he is quite short on match practice.


Outside shouts

The in-form Sam Arnold spent time in the Ireland camp recently for the first time, and he will be hoping to be included on the summer tour to Australia.

Rory O'Loughlin's injury problems have not helped his case but Schmidt has told the Leinster man that he primarily sees him as an outside centre.

Ulster duo Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall have a bit of ground to make up to force their way back into the reckoning.

Irish Independent

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