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5 Irish Players Who Could Get Themselves Into Joe Schmidt's Thoughts This Weekend

5 Irish Players Who Could Get Themselves Into Joe Schmidt's Thoughts This Weekend
By Conor O'Leary
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There's a positive feeling around Irish rugby at the moment. The provinces may not be pulling up the trees in Europe as in recent years, but the national team's success combined with the impending Rugby World Cup mean that any rugby played between now and October will be a factor in what happens in the World Cup.

Players will be looking to impress and earn their way into the 31-man squad for the World Cup. The depth chart shows the number of international standard players that Ireland have at their disposal.

Injuries and opportunities mean that there is always a chance for players to enhance their selection chances, and here are the five players who have the most to gain going into this weeks European fixtures.

1. Tommy O'Donnell

With Sean O'Brien, Chris Henry and Rhys Ruddock all injured, there is a big opening for an openside flanker to stake their claim during the Six Nations.

The only question is - who will it be?

Munster's Tommy O'Donnell is a big candidate, and has been impressing and improving a lot in the last year. He brings a balance to the Munster backrow along with Peter O'Mahony's breakdown skills and CJ Stander's ball-carrying. He's one of the more promising opensides Ireland have had, and if he continues his upward curve, it'll be hard to ignore.


A classic European match where Munster are up against it facing a massive pack is the perfect place to showcase his selection credentials and one suspects that O'Donnell could be central to Munster's fortunes.

2. Martin Moore

Martin Moore is just back from injury, but it appears he's leapfrogged the permanent fixture that is Mike Ross in Leinster's front row. The 23-year-old tighthead has a chance to supplant Ross for Ireland too. None of the other tightheads made significant ground for Ireland when Moore was out for November, and now he's back the starting job is in his sights.

3. Paddy Jackson

The one thing Johnny Sexton's head worries have given is an opportunity to the other outhalves in the country. With Jackson surprisingly dropped in November, he has the most to gain from regaining his form. Schmidt stated back in November that Jackson was to remain with Ulster to get match fit, but an unfortunate injury stopped that.

Now though, Jackson is back and appears to be regaining his form and confidence. He's highly rated in Ulster and Ireland, and with a bench spot up for grabs at least, Jackson will be hoping for a big performance against Toulon even though Ulster have nothing to gain, Jackson most certainly does.

4. Ian Keatley

When Ireland named their squad for the November internationals, the inclusion of Ian Keatley over Paddy Jackson was a surprise. There's no doubting hat Keatley has been in great form this season, but with Jackson returning to form, there's another battle on Keatley's hands to stay in Schmidt's plans.

One way to stay firmly at the front of people's minds is to mastermind an astonishing victory for Munster against Saracens. With Conor Murray ruled out, much of Munster's hopes firmly rest on the shoulder of Keatley. It's a massive opportunity for the 27-year-old in what could end up sparking his career to new heights.


The time has come for Keatley.

5. Kieran Marmion

Marmion may not be playing in the Champions Cup, but that's not to say a game against Exeter Chiefs would be of a high quality. There's a spot on the Irish bench up for grabs with Eoin Reddan approaching 35 years old and in a slow decline of his abilities. Marmion has been outstanding for Connacht in their resurgence and there is a clamour for him to be included for more important Ireland games.


With Murray's neck injury ruling him out for the next few weeks, there will be a doubt whether he's ready to start the Six Nations. More impressive showings form Connacht's heartbeat could give Schmidt an avenue to rest Murray until he's ready.

Picture credit: Sportsfile

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