The Six Nations may be on pause this weekend but there's still value to be gained for those released from the Ireland squad this weekend.
At the beginning of the week Andy Farrell released 14 players from the Six Nations squad to play in the URC this weekend, including the likes of Jack Carty, Jordan Larmour, Gavin Coombes and Nick Timoney. All four provinces have games this weekend and Stephen Ferris believes it's good for players to get out of the Irish camp to play games.
Ferris was on The Buildup in association with Ladbrokes and spoke about the importance of gametime for players and named a few players who will get a chance this weekend to put their name in the hat for Italy Sunday week.
A few players have been released and quite rightfully so, you need gametime. I've been in their situation, you can't just take a few weeks off and then get back in or if there's an injury and you get called in. Then the nerves kick in, then you under-perform
I think Andy Farrell has done the right thing. He could've been a little bit selfish and held on to a few of the lads, to help out in training and hold tackle shields but he hasn't done that, he's released the fellas. I think James Hume, I know we keep talking about him for Ulster and for Ireland but he's going to get an opportunity, he has to get an opportunity, Rob Baloucoune as well.
These URC games are also a chance to fix some issues Ireland may have. Jamison Gibson-Park has nailed down the starting scrum-half jersey in the last handful of games but after his performance last weekend, Ferris believes the Italy game could be a chance to bring in some of the new, promising talents Ireland has in its ranks.
The scrum-half position for me is still a huge talking point. I think Jamison Gibson-Park last weekend, he just didn't play well. He scored a lovely try but his box kicks were dreadful, put the team under pressure. Actually carried the ball an awful lot off scrums into big heavy men, like Dupont rattled him on a couple of occasions.
So maybe Craig Casey could be given a shout, young Nathan Doak could be on the springboard into the Ireland system as a development player in the next couple of weeks, the team is going to be ever changing as the tournament goes on, but we want to give the young guys a shot, give them a chance to represent their country against Italy.
With Grand Slam hopes gone and the next match being at home to Italy, it will be interesting to see if Farrell uses this weekend to get players warmed up and ready to play the next week and further on in the Six Nations.