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Ciarán Frawley Ireland Call Up Proves Andy Farrell's Recognition Of Weak Spot

Ciarán Frawley Ireland Call Up Proves Andy Farrell's Recognition Of Weak Spot
Eoin Harrington
By Eoin Harrington
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It's safe to say that Ireland's squad depth at test level is worlds apart to anything we've seen in recent years, with at least two top class options in the vast majority of positions.

This has been exemplified by Ireland's form during an injury-ridden Six Nations campaign so far. They stand on three wins from three despite big names such as Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong, and Jamison Gibson-Park missing significant chunks of the tournament.

Their replacements have proven more than capable and, for the first time, Ireland will likely be leaving behind some of their biggest names when the squad for the World Cup is named later this year.

There are, however, always weak points in any squad, and one of Andy Farrell's recent decisions proves his recognition of one of these weaker areas.

Ahead of Ireland's crucial trip to Murrayfield this weekend, Farrell has called up two players to the 37-man training camp and, though neither man is likely to feature in either of the last two games of the Six Nations, his call-up of Leinster back Ciarán Frawley points to a lack of depth at full-back, where Hugo Keenan has become indispensable to the Ireland coach.

Ciarán Frawley call-up points to Ireland squad depth issue

Ciarán Frawley saw game time for Leinster at the weekend against Edinburgh but, crucially, it was away from his favoured position of out-half.

He impressed in a 47-27 win for the province, and has been rewarded with a call-up to the extended Ireland camp ahead of this Sunday's clash with Scotland at Murrayfield


Ciaran Frawley Leinster

4 March 2023; Ciarán Frawley of Leinster after his side's victory in the United Rugby Championship match between Edinburgh and Leinster at The Dam Health Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Frawley is the fourth player in the camp capable of playing at 10, after Johnny Sexton, Ross Byrne, and Jack Crowley, suggesting that Andy Farrell might have been drawn to another of his traits when calling him up to the international setup.


Ireland have dealt with injury blows in almost every position thus far in the Six Nations. They have survived without Tadhg Furlong in the front row, seen Tadhg Beirne drop out of the second row, dealt with the absence of Jamison Gibson-Park at scrum-half, and seen Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose both missing at centre.

And, thankfully, they have been well-served in each area when those players have dropped out. Finlay Bealham and Conor Murray in particular have impressed since coming in to the side, and most worries around Ireland's squad depth have been abated.


One area, however, where Ireland are lacking in depth is at 15. Hugo Keenan has established himself as one of the first names on the Ireland team sheet, alongside the likes of Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong, and Josh van der Flier.


Hugo Keenan Ireland Italy

25 February 2023; Hugo Keenan of Ireland on his way to scoring his side's second try during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Italy and Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Keenan has become one of Ireland's most dependable players in recent years, with the Leinster man cemented as one of the standout back three players in Europe after his form since making his Ireland debut in late 2020.


Keenan has, in fact, started all but two games for Ireland since the beginning of 2021. Jimmy O'Brien filled in at 15 against Fiji in November, while Michael Lowry started last year's Six Nations game against Italy.

The situation if Keenan were to sustain an injury, however, is not quite as rosey. Ireland are not "dependent" on Keenan per se, but his brilliance does undoubtedly make up a huge part of Andy Farrell's game plan, and the lack of options if he were to be sidelined will be one of the few areas causing a headache for Farrell ahead of this year's World Cup. O'Brien is primed and ready off the bench for action, while Lowry is now firmly out of contention.

There are the likes of Mack Hansen to play with as options, or in an extreme case others such as Robbie Henshaw who have played there in the past, but Farrell would understandably be extremely reluctant to move two of Ireland's most important players from their favoured positions.


Which is where we come to Ciarán Frawley. Behind the likes of Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne in the out-half pecking order at club level, Frawley's game time has seen him - surely somewhat frustratingly - moved around in the backline, seeing plenty of game time in the centre or at out-half.

His most recent game time came against Edinburgh last weekend, again playing at 15 rather than at out-half. The proximity of his Ireland call-up to this outing would suggest that Farrell is pivoting away from seeing Frawley exclusively as an out-half, and beginning to appreciate his capabilities in the backfield.

Ciaran Frawley Ireland New Zealand

4 November 2022; Ciaran Frawley of Ireland offloads as he is tackled by Marino Mikaele-Tu’u and Tevita Mafileo of All Blacks during the match between Ireland A and All Blacks XV at RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

With the prime Hugo Keenan back-up Jamie Osborne out through injury, Frawley has come in as back-up, also replacing Joey Carbery in the squad.

Of course, it is unlikely that the 25-year-old will see any game time in the remainder of the Six Nations, but his addition to the squad has certainly come at an intriguing time when Ireland's out-half options look solid, and when a full-back has been ruled out of the squad injured.

It's clear that Andy Farrell and his coaching team see potential in Frawley, seeing as he played for Ireland "A" against the All Blacks XV in November, but this latest call-up is one of the most intriguing moments yet of his young career.

It may seem like nothing from the outside, but this may bode well for Ciarán Frawley's chances of sneaking into Ireland's World Cup squad.

SEE ALSO: Lancaster Explains How He Took A 'Punt' On An Unproven Andy Farrell

stuart lancaster andy farrell england irish rugby six nations

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