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O’Connell defends Farrell’s Irish selection policy

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Ireland forwards coach Paul O'Connell prior to the match between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland forwards coach Paul O'Connell prior to the match between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland forwards coach Paul O'Connell prior to the match between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell has defended Andy Farrell’s selection policy after an all-Leinster backline started in Rome last time out.

Eyebrows were raised when Farrell picked 11 Leinster players, including the entire backline for the win over Italy, and while O’Connell is mindful that competition for places is vital, he pointed out the merits of selecting familiar club combinations.

Farrell could name an unchanged team for Sunday’s Six Nations game against Scotland what O’Connell has described as “the best Scottish team I’ve ever gone up against” – although Conor Murray has trained fully and is pushing for a recall at scrum-half after his hamstring injury.

Leinster are again set to be the bulk suppliers to the Ireland team, but O’Connell warned against the dangers of becoming overly reliant on one province. “I think combinations definitely help and definitely work,” he said.

“You’d love to see players from other provinces putting them under pressure, which will happen, but I do believe in combinations. Certainly you look at hooker and lineout caller combinations. You look at props, centres, nines and out-halves.

“It just shows where Leinster are at the moment that we end up with a backline like we did last time. I don’t know if Ireland really aspires to having combinations as big as that. Combinations help, but I think we need as much as competition as we can have.”

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