Rugby

The Ireland Team We Would Like To See For The Six Nations Opener Against France

The Ireland Team We Would Like To See For The Six Nations Opener Against France

With reports emerging this morning that Garry Ringrose is set for a spell on the sidelines, and will miss the first two rounds of the Six Nations, the picture has become more clear as to what XV Ireland Joe Schmidt will select for Ireland's opening game in Paris on February the 3rd.

France are fraught with uncertainty and controversy after legendary head coach Guy Noves was relieved of duties just days before Christmas, but as usual, a win in Paris can never be taken for granted.

If Ireland can pass their Paris examination, their next three games will be at home in the Aviva against Italy, Wales, and Scotland, all extremely winnable. That leads us to St. Patrick's weekend, it's Twickenham, and England, and what could well be either a Grand Slam or a Championship decider.

After the highly entertaining and enthralling inter-pros over Christmas, we have picked the Ireland team we would like to see named to face France on February 3. Two more rounds of Europe are still to come which could change things, but this is how we see it now.

 

1. Cian Healy

The Leinster prop was rumoured to be close to retiring two seasons ago, but Healy has come roaring back playing some of the best stuff we've seen from him in over five years. Although it's close, he just shades it over Jack McGrath, who should still get over 20 minutes from the bench.

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2. Rory Best (C)

The Ireland captain was a welcome boost in his return to the Ulster side that defeated Munster in Ravenhill a fortnight ago. His form has not been stellar but his leadership qualities are unrivaled and his work-rate at the breakdown is phenomenal.

 

3. Tadhg Furlong

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The Wexford man is rapidly becoming Ireland's favourite rugby player. No discussion as to whether he plays, barring injury.

 

4. Iain Henderson

It's a big tournament for Henderson, who had a good 2017, including an impressive Lions tour. After years of being in and out of the starting lineup, it's incredible he's still only 25, and has finally established that position for himself.

 

5. Devin Toner

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The 6ft 10' man has struggled in recent times but because of lack of depth and inexperience Ireland are suffering in the second row, Toner seems like the most sensible option to start. He played well enough in November to retain his place.

 

6. Peter O'Mahony

O'Mahony produced a memorable performance in the last round of the 2017 Six Nations against England, a performance so good it got him a Lions tour. Since four became three due to the injury of Jamie Heaslip, the backrow isn't the selection headache it was last spring.

 

7. Sean O'Brien

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If Ireland have a fully fit 'Tullow tank', we instantly become a better team.

 

8. CJ Stander

With the speculation of a move to France behind him, and his international future secured, we should expect a huge Six Nations from Stander. The man is a wrecking ball. His performance against Connacht at the weekend show the kind of form he's in at the right time of the season.

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9. Conor Murray

Ireland's player of the year and our best scrum half by some distance too. Let's hope he can stay injury free. The drop off in class below Murray is huge and it's questionable whether Ireland could handle losing him.

10. Johnny Sexton

World class out-half and Joe Schmidt's 'rugby brain,' on the field will start every game, barring injury of course.

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11. Jacob Stockdale

The man of the November internationals shouldn't lose his place in the team, despite the return to fitness of Keith Earls. Worryingly for Schmidt, Stockdale missed three tackles against Leinster at the weekend which led to three tries, but we'd definitely like to see him get another chance to prove himself in green.

12. Bundee Aki

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Having made his debut for Ireland last November, it is likely Schmidt will opt for Aki with former Connacht teammate Henshaw in midfield. Although, he didn't light up the November internationals, he did enough to start for the Six Nations.

 

13. Robbie Henshaw

With last year's Six Nations centre partner (Ringrose) out for the opening two rounds, Henshaw will likely shift to 13 in the reshuffle. He is fast becoming a leader for Leinster & Ireland and it's hard to believe that the Athlone man is only 24.

 

14. Jordan Larmour

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The man who could sidestep you in a phone box, the man of the moment.

The 20-year-old has been in scintillating form whenever he's been given the opportunity by Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster at Leinster. He hasn't been involved with Ireland before, so it's unlikely Schmidt will select him until the summer tour of Australia, but is there a chance we start looking at the World Cup now, and go with the form player in the Pro 14, and one of the most exciting prospects we've seen in Irish rugby in a long time.

 

15. Rob Kearney

Many will not agree with the Kearney selection, but his performances in November were exceptional. He makes our XV because of the youth and inexperience we have selected on the wings.

 

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Honourable Mentions

Andrew Conway

The Munster wing will likely start on the right wing for Paris after his performances for Ireland in November. His form for Munster has been electric too but because Larmour's form has been so scintillating, we've opted to taking a chance on youth.

 

Keith Earls

Another Munster winger who we're treated incredibly harshly here. Was in the form of his life before his injury just before November, and Stockdale's performances in his absence were just too good. Earls, given his experience, is likely to feature at some point in the competition.

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Chris Farrell

Having returned to Ireland from Top 14 side Grenoble, Farrell has been playing outside centre for Munster. He made his international debut against Fiji, struggling in that game, before having a great performance against Argentina. It was Farrell's beautiful soft hands that sent Sexton through the Argentina defence and set up Stockdale for his first try of the game.

Unfortunately, he's been injured since that game, playing his first game of rugby since last weekend. He put in a performance for Joe Schmidt will take note of, and don't be surprised to see him involved at some stage this spring.

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Jack Conan

The Leinster number eight's has been in top form for the past two seasons. He would certainly be starting for Ireland if CJ Stander wasn't around. His performances on the summer tour to America and Japan were exceptional. He is pushing hard for a place now. We'd have him on the bench for Paris, possibly ahead of Josh Van der Flier.

Sean Cronin

The Leinster hooker didn't feature in the November internationals last November to most commentators and fans' bewilderment. Clearly there was a method behind the madness of Joe Schmidt, clearly sending a message to the pacy hooker whose form since that disappointment has been superb. He's back now in the kind of form that will surely put him at least on the bench in Paris.

Do you agree with the team? Let us know who you'd have gone for instead in the comments.

SEE ALSO: Donncha O'Callaghan Calls On Certain Ulster Players To "Step Up" Amidst Slump

James Carroll

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