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The Next Wave Of Irish Rugby Talent And Eight Inevitable Comparisons

The Next Wave Of Irish Rugby Talent And Eight Inevitable Comparisons
By Conor O'Leary
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It's draft season in the NFL, which means that all of the prospects coming out of college into the pro game are usually given pro comparisons so that viewers know what to expect. In an age when the Irish rugby academies are producing more talent than ever before, there are a lot of legitimate comparisons to be made between our young talent and

Andrew Porter and Cian Healy

Cian Healy was just the start. The Lions loosehead prop was an absolute monster, a freak of nature. And yet, he was the beginning of a conveyor belt of Irish propping talent that includes Jack McGrath, Denis Buckley, James Cronin, and Jeremy Loughman.

But Porter is the most similar to Healy of them all. Porter is a similar freak. He's been the second most impressive player for the Ireland U20's this year, although he hasn't reached the heights of last year's Junior World Rugby tournament.

Porter has the power and pace to match Healy in the loose, but you never get a sense that Porter will be as ill-disciplined as Healy tends to be.

Conan O'Donnell and Mike Ross

Conan O'Donnell is a beast. He already has nine Connacht caps under his belt at 19 years of age, and looks set for a big future in the game. He has struggled a little bit in this year's U20s at scrumtime, but has been impressive in flashes.

One thing you will notice is how he's constantly talking to referees about what's happening in the scrum. It's as if he lives to scrummage, and doesn't know that there are other things in the world to talk about.

By all means, O'Donnell is a nice and studious guy. The only professional prop that gets as interested in scrums is Mike Ross. O'Donnell will be Ireland's newest scrum nerd, and that's a very very good thing for Irish rugby.


Ross Molony and Leo Cullen

Probably in the top three best comparisons in this list. Molony is a leader. He lead the talented 2013 St. Michael's team that included Leinster players like Ross Byrne and Cian Kelleher to name a few, and carried them.

He leads by example, and he leads intelligently. He's already calling lineouts for Leinster at 21-year-old, and plays with the maturity of someone much older.

He plays exactly like Leo Cullen did. Cullen was an exceptional leader in his late career, and was very under-rated in Irish rugby. It's hard not to see shades of Cullen in Molony's play, but to be fair to the St. Michael's lad - he's probably better-looking than the Leinster head coach.


James Ryan and Paul O'Connell

Probably the most tenuous comparison, but it is already being made.

On one hand, you can see why - Ryan is carrying the Ireland U20's on his back the way O'Connell was able to.


Ryan is a supremely talented lock, who works extremely hard. He often tops the tackle count, offers himself for carries, and controls line-outs. Features that O'Connell definitely does. It's a long way yet, and Ryan will make a great pro - but comparing him to O'Connell's status right now might be a bit premature - for now.


Iain Henderson and Stephen Ferris

I feel like I had to include this one. It's actually not a fantastic comparision. Granted they are both Ulster forwards who dominate in contact - but Ferris used his deceptive pace as well, and the way Henderson carries looks very different albeit just as effective.

Ferris' work rate off the ball sets him apart from Henderson - it's hard to see Henderson carrying Will Genia like a rag doll when Genia has the ball - but you can see Henderson bringing him across the try line a la Ginger McLoughlin.

Jack O'Donoghue and Anthony Foley

Ireland's newest call up is something special. He's a bit unlucky that he's got CJ Stander, Robin Copeland, and Peter O'Mahony in his way. It's a testament to his talent that he's still able to get gametime under Munster head coach Anthony Foley.


It may seem a long time ago now, but Foley was as talented a no.8 as O'Donoghue is.

O'Donoghue gives the same go-forward ball that Foley was known for, and Munster have yet another quality back rower on their hands.

Ross Byrne and Johnny Sexton


I've made this comparison a few times, but the more I see it the more convinced I am.

Both out-halves have a similar build, and a similar style with ball in hand. They use the same technique to place kick, they both attack the line with the ball in hand, and have wonderful passes to unleash their backline.

They both see space in behind and can execute kicks on the money to exploit defenses.


Garry Ringrose and Brian O'Driscoll

This comparison is inevitable, and it's already happening - but it's also frightening how similar they are.

Aside from Ringrose being the heir apparent to O'Driscoll as Leinster and Ireland's future 13 - the fact both went to Blackrock, and both didn't start for their schools junior cup teams as half-backs are a little strange. They both have a tendency to put the ball to boot a bit much, but the way Ringrose glides through holes is very reminscint of a young O'Driscoll.

Just wait until Ringrose produces a sidestep like this. The world would explode.


See Also: Is This Irish Rugby's Next Big Hope?

See Also: Sky Sport's Dewi Morris Believes Ireland Have Found Their Next Paul O'Connell

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