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Our Prediction For The Ireland Team That Wins The Six Nations In 2020

Our Prediction For The Ireland Team That Wins The Six Nations In 2020
By Conor O'Leary
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If you think Ireland have depth now, then provincial anger over national selections are about to get very heated. After Ireland retain the World Cup in 2019, a number of senior players like Johnny Sexton, Sean O'Brien and Luke Fitzgerald may retire, so where will the state of Irish rugby be in five short years?

Ireland Rugby Team 2020

Here is the Ireland rugby team 2020 Balls.ie predicts will start the first Six Nations game against Romania.

1. Cian Healy

The only difference between Ireland's loosehead options in 2015 and 2020 is that all of them will have five years more experience. Cian Healy will be a young 32, Jack McGrath will be 30, James Cronin (29), Dave Kilcoyne (31), Denis Buckley(29), Peter Dooley (26), and current U20 prop Jeremy Loughman will be 25. The point of listing them all? Ireland are producing looseheads by the bucketload at the moment. But Cian Healy is a freak of nature and will remain Ireland's loosehead until he decides he's had enough.

2. Duncan Casey

The choice at hooker wasn't as plentiful as at loosehead. Rory Best, Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss are all likely to not be involved come 2020, and the picture behind them isn't clear. Candidates include former Ireland U20 captain Niall Annett, now in Worcester, while Leinster's Ed Byrne could be competing with the impressive U20 hooker Zack McCall. Duncan Casey is the closest to the spot at the moment though, and he's been too impressive at Munster and will get better at only 24 years old.

3. Martin Moore

There is life after Mike Ross. That's what Leinster coach Matt O'Connor demonstrated in January by selecting young Irish tightheads Marty Moore and Tadhg Furlong ahead of the Irish incumbent. Both will be under 30 years of age in 2020, and will be Ireland's two tightheads, ably assisted by Connacht's U19 prop Conan O'Donnell, Leinster and Ireland U20 Oisin Heffernan and Connacht's Finlay Bealham.

4. Iain Henderson

At 28, Iain Henderson will be the cornerstone of the Irish pack. His dynamic displays from the second row will provide plenty of go forward for the two-time World Cup champions. A 33-year-old Devin Toner will still be knocking on the ceiling, but will be edged out by the second coming of Stephen Ferris.

5. Sean O'Brien

No, the Tullow Tank won't be moved to the second row, Sean O'Brien 2.0 is Connacht's ginger version who can play in any of the back five positions. A lack of second rows will be the reason he'll be picked here, with only Quinn Roux, Dave Foley and Ross Molony there to offer competition.

6. Peter O'Mahony (c)

I don't think there's any doubt that O'Mahony is a future Ireland captain, and will possibly leapfrog over Jamie Heaslip in the line when Paul O'Connell retires. In 2020, O'Mahony will only be 30. That's a scary thought for most other countries.

7. Jordi Murphy

There's a chance that at 33, Sean O'Brien will still be available, but with the attrition rate of rugby getting to O'Brien already, we've decided to go another direction. This was a straight fight between current Irish international Jordi Murphy, last years's Ireland U20 highly rated forward Dan Leavy with this years U20 openside flanker Rory Maloney just behind.

8. Jack O'Donoghue

Waterpark's finest beats competition from former South African U20 captain CJ Stander who will only be 29, and from Leinster's impressive new no.8 Jack Conan. O'Donoghue is only a year behind Conan, in terms of age, but is starting to make his mark on the Munster first team. He's scored three tries in his first three career games, and is extremely highly thought of down in Munster. Very likely to take up the Munster captaincy after Peter O'Mahony.

9. Conor Murray

Conor Murray is making an argument that he is one of the best scrumhalves in 2015 aged 25. Why would that just when he's just 30 years old? He'll face pressure from Luke McGrath once Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss retire, and Connacht's Kieran Marmion continues to improve at a large rate.

10. Ross Byrne

Will Sexton still be playing at 34? It's likely, but there's a chance that after leading Ireland to World Cup glory in Japan in 2019, he may retire on top of the world. Up steps his heir apparent Ross Byrne.

11. Simon Zebo

It's frightening to think how many of the current Ireland team are only going to be approaching their peak in 2019. Simon Zebo will only be 29 in the Ireland team of 2020, and with extra time learning under Joe Schmidt will be able to tailor his game to be as effective as Tommy Bowe with the flair he possesses.

12. Robbie Henshaw

Robbie Henshaw in 2020 could have become the focal point of Ireland's team. He has shown in this Six Nations championship that he has the defensive potential of emulating O'Driscoll, while he regularly shows more for Connacht in the wider position of 13 when given more of a license.

13. Gary Ringrose

The question of Henshaw's centre partner is a tough one. Possibly the toughest position to fill. Ulster's continent of Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey and Stuart Olding all press heavily for inclusion, while ex Ulster and Grenoble centre Chris Farrell could be exciting after developing under Bernard Jackman in France. The dark horse is Henshaw's Connacht centre partner Bundee Aki who might have a wonderful combination with Henshaw by 2020. But an Ireland Junior World Player of the year nominee is hard to pass up.

14. Craig Gilroy

Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls will be on the edge of retiring after being ravaged by injuries early in their careers. At 32 years old, it's hard to know whether they will be still at the top of their games. A safer bet would be 28-year-old Craig Gilroy who would be at the peak of his career. He'd be flourishing with regular rugby after Tommy Bowe retires.

15. Ciaran Gaffney

The latest bright Connacht youngster will be returning to the Ireland U20 squad after a hamstring injury at the end of this Six Nations. The Galwegians flier has an extremely smooth running style that glides along the pitch. He was fantastic for Ireland in last year's Junior World Cup as a U19 winger.

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