Rugby

The Ireland Rugby Depth Chart Ahead Of The November Internationals

The Ireland Rugby Depth Chart Ahead Of The November Internationals

Tomorrow, Andy Farrell will name his XV to play Japan. This comes two weeks after Farrell named his squad for Ireland's November internationals against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina. One of the pleasures of the Ireland rugby job for Farrell is the impressive squad depth that's at his disposal. All four provinces have really exciting young players coming through. This means there's huge competition for places and players are hungry to compete.

With the URC season underway and the long Lions-affected season last year, more internationals have had the chance to play clubs matches and aren't cold coming into these internationals. Players are fit and ready for this series. The Irish teams have dominated in the URC too so these players are playing near their best at the moment for strong sides.

Here's our depth chart for the Ireland rugby squad as we head into the fixtures against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina.

IRELAND RUGBY DEPTH CHART

Front Row

IRISH SQUAD DEPTH: FRONT ROW

There has been a bit of change in the Ireland rugby front row over summer. Andrew Porter has re-trained into a loosehead prop. He used to play loosehead  before joining the Leinster academy, but in his professional career he has played tighthead. Before the start of this season he had only played at loosehead professionally in 2019 before the World Cup as Joe Schmidt wanted to see how versatile he was. Cian Healy on the other hand has played tighthead as well as loose this season and for a 34-year-old that had played loosehead for his whole career, this is massively impressive. Having Porter and Healy being ambidextrous in the scrum is a real asset for Ireland.

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Ronan Kelleher is fairly set in at starting hooker. He joined up with the Lions squad in South Africa though never got on the field. He is a very athletic runner on the ball but his throwing can let him down at times.  Rob Herring provides that solidity with his throwing abilities and is alright around the field too. He has always been a good option for Farrell and isn't very flashy, but does all the basics very well. Dan Sheehan on the other hand is another very flashy runner like Kelleher. He has scored a lot of tries since breaking into the Leinster team last season. He can be a very useful impact sub that can bring huge energy for the last 20 minutes of games.

Tadhg Furlong is the best tighthead in the world right now and it looks like he will be for the foreseeable. He's got the size and strength to bully other packs, but is also very agile for his size and has silky hands. In his two games so far for Leinster this season he has picked up right where he left off. Leinster's scrummaging display against Scarlets was second to none and Furlong dominated fellow Lions prop Wyn Jones. David Kilcoyne (loosehead) and Finlay Bealham (tighthead) are great back ups and have always been great impact subs for Ireland. They're very strong at scrummaging as well, helping Ireland to have one of the strongest front row units in the world.

Locks

IRISH SQUAD DEPTH: LOCKS

The second rows also brings a bit of versatility and high quality for the Ireland rugby set-up. Ulster's  Iain Henderson is returning to fitness, and when fully fit, deserves a place in the starting XV for Ireland. Henderson has been one of the best and most consistent second rows in the northern hemisphere over the last five years. Beside him Farrell may go for James Ryan. The young second row captained Ireland during the summer series and was perhaps unfortunate not to get a call-up for the Lions after Alun Wyn Jones' injury.

Behind them two there is a plethora of talent. Ryan Baird would feel like he is knocking on the door for a start. He is an athletic freak at second row, being able to out run most players on the pitch. Baird is also one of the more powerful players around. He never gets smashed back when he carries the ball, always making yards. Alongside him is Connacht's Ultan Dillane. He has been in the international set up for a while and is in great form this season. If needs be Tadhg Beirne can also slot in at second row if you're going for a more athletic lineup.

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Back Row

IRISH SQUAD DEPTH: BACK ROW

For back rows we start with Beirne at blindside flanker. Over the last couple of years Beirne has been one of the best Irish players. He is a turnover machine. Even though teams target him and knows about his abilities Beirne always finds a way to get over the ball and turn it over. He is a very savvy operator who is an underrated runner as well. He is a perfect option at 6 for Andy Farrell, along with Peter O'Mahony. Both are traditional blindsides who are tough, gritty and lead by example.

In the openside there's not many better right now than Josh van der Flier. The Wicklow man is an 8/10 almost every week and his levels rarely drop. Even when Leinster had a shocker in the URC against the Dragons, van der Flier was phenomenal. He racks up a huge number of tackles as well and has really improved his ball carrying since the World Cup. He should be a shoe-in to start, especially on the run he's on right now.

At 8 there is exciting competition but the number one option has to be Jack Conan. The Leinster 8 is one of the most athletic forwards in the northern hemisphere and using his back-like speed can be of huge benefit to Ireland. He is a brilliant try scorer and provides great skills to link up with the backs. Gavin Coombes is just behind him and the Munster youngster is likewise a brilliant try scorer. Like Stander, Coombes is very strong around the fringes and is hard to stop. There's great versatility in the back rows as well with Caelan Doris and Nick Timoney both being capable of playing 8 and flanker.

Half-backs

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IRISH SQUAD DEPTH: HALF-BACKS

This season could see a changing of the guard at scrum half. Conor Murray has been a constant presence in the Ireland squad since his debut in 2011. He has been a fantastic leader and rightfully got to captain the Lions during the summer. However at 32, the next World Cup will surely be his last.

However there is exciting talent coming through for Ireland rugby fans. Munster's Craig Casey and Ulster Nathan Doak look very capable of taking that starting scrum half spot and Casey could get his chance this November. Doak is only 19 and has arguably been Ulster's player of the season so far, so if he keeps up the form he should get a call up soon. People are very familiar with Casey's ability. The diminutive scrum-half was a star player for Ireland rugby U20's Grand Slam in 2019 and has impressed when given a chance for Munster. He will fight it out for the back up scrum half jersey with Leinster's Jamison Gibson-Park. Both Casey and Gibson-Park will be good options off the bench for Murray as both have great pace. In the last 20 minutes of games bringing on either could be a game changer.

At fly-half there's really only one option, captain Jonathan Sexton. The 36-year0old is one of the greatest Irish players ever and is going to be really hard to replace. Sexton, even at this stage of his career,  still has to be a starter, especially in the big games. He performs at the highest level and no matter who else comes in, it will be a drop off.

Behind him there is a myriad of players knocking on the door. Joey Carbery is slowly getting back to his best after injuries ravaged him for a long time. Harry Byrne has been called up and too like Carbery has had injury issues but if he gets game time it should be valuable experience. Options like Billy Burns, Ross Byrne and Jack Carty all have international experience too if called upon. Carty was very unfortunate not to get called up after his very impressive start to the URC. The Connacht man has been outstanding and is a very different player to Sexton. He would be a good Plan B to go to if down during a match as he very often has moments of brilliance and can break down a defence.

Centres

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IRISH SQUAD DEPTH: CENTRES

There will have to be a bit of change to the centres this November as Robbie Henshaw is out. The Lions centre has picked up a foot injury and thus is out of the squad. In his place sees Ciarán Frawley comes in. The Leinster man has really made strides since moving to centre from out half last season. Playing Frawley gives Ireland a second distributor, something England and New Zealand have used to their benefit the last few years. It could be a big tactical shift for Farrell if he plays the Skerries native.

Frawley will be behind Bundee Aki in the pecking order for this series most likely. The Connacht centre has just returned to the Connacht lineup after going on the Lions Tour in the summer. Aki is a very good back up to have for Henshaw and will slot in seamlessly to the starting back line. He is a great character as well so the squad morale should be high for the series. Stuart McCloskey will too be competing for that starting 12 jersey in this series. The Ulsterman has silky hands to contrast with his massive frame. If Ireland are looking to throw the ball around and get some offloads off, them McCloskey is a great option.

At outside centre Garry Ringrose will likely take up the 13 jersey. The Leinster man was left off the Lions tour and will be out to show people now that he is one of the best centres in Europe. He is an extraordinary defender who is a great reader of the game, being able to predict and anticipate what the opposition will do. Behind him James Hume gets a huge opportunity. With the injuries to Henshaw and Chris Farrell the spot has opened up for Hume to take. He has been pivotal to Ulster's flying start to the URC season and has earned his chance here.

Back Three

ireland rugby squad depth: back three

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The main headline from the Ireland rugby squad announcement was the return of Simon Zebo. The Munster star hasn't played in an Ireland jersey since 2017 and only returned from his stint in Paris in the summer. He is a pure try scorer and a phenomenal one at that. Zebo and James Lowe will be fighting for the starting 11 jersey. Both players are amazing going forward but it's safe to say that they aren't the best defenders. Lowe especially has been caught out defensively time and time again but if he can fix that, there's not many better wingers on the planet.

On the other flank there's a huge amount of competition with Jordan Larmour, Keith Earls, Andrew Conway and Robert Baloucoune all called up. Larmour and Earls can play on the left wing but are usually deployed on the right. There's not much between the four and all could get game time this November. Baloucoune only made his debut in the summer but brings explosive pace and fantastic running skills that could be valuable in the late stages of games. Larmour, Earls and Conway too are fantastic wingers, just with a bit more experience

In a late edition to the squad Mack Hansen has been called up. The former Australia u20 international has been fantastic for Connacht so far this season. He only joined the Westerners in the summer but has already made a huge impact, scoring four tries in the URC. It will be interesting to see if he'll be given a chance.

At full back there's no one else competing but Hugo Keenan. Another product of the Leinster academy, Keenan burst onto the scene last year and has been mr. reliable ever since. He is very competent at all the aspects of the game, kicking, catching, running and defending. If fit he should have the 15 jersey for all three matches.

This promises to be a testing series for Andy Farrell and the Ireland rugby squad but the quality is very high quality right now and the mojo looks to have come back to the squad after the disappointing end to the 2019 World Cup.

See also: Greg McWilliams To Succeed Adam Griggs As Irish Women's Head Coach

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Jonathan Browne

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