2024 Six Nations

Ireland began their 2024 Six Nations by beating France in Marseille last Friday evening winning 38-17. It was a strong performance that of course was not perfect but I feel you’ll never really get that perfect performance even in victory. Ireland went into last Friday not knowing what was ahead after defeat to New Zealand last October at the RWC in a tight tussle 29-28.

With the dawn of a new campaign means it is time to put to bed any ill feelings of previous games. Of course as we all know It was the first time since November 2009 barring injury that Ireland were without Jonathan Sexton with Munster’s Jack Crowley given his chance to start a 6 nations game for the first time !! Over the course of the 80 minutes he showed he can handle the pressure and that bodes well for the rest of this Championship.

Ireland started well and led 17-10 at the break and one feels that lead could have been more and that will mean that Andy Farrell will look for more from his charges this week leading to a home game against Italy on Sunday at 3pm.

Italy lost 27-24 in Rome last weekend to England and they will know they had a real opportunity to get that elusive win over England but Gonzalo Quesada and his coaches will have been heartened by the finish of the game with Italy finishing with a flourish with Monty Ioane crossing for a well-earned try late on that Tommaso Allen converted.

Italy come to Dublin buoyed by that strong finish but Ireland have their own agenda and will look to push on after the victory in France. As is always the case what type of team Andy Farrell selects will be interesting to watch. A few changes will be expected but wholesale change is not the order of the day.

Trying to build new combinations might just see Craig Casey come in to partner Munster team mate Jack Crowley or Ciaran Frawley may get his chance to come in steer the ship from the beginning having seen game time from the bench late on last weekend. My money would be on Craig Casey coming in with Jamison Gibson Park or Conor Murray on the bench along with Frawley.

Continuity is very important so I would expect minimal changes with rotation in the front row, Cian Healy in with Andrew Porter dropping to the bench or Jeremy Loughman coming onto the bench in support of Healy. Ireland do need to develop the next generation of young props and that is ironic as I name Cian Healy and the ripe old age of 36 in place of Andrew Porter but that is simply the job of others to push ahead of Healy at Leinster and by others in the other three provinces.

Ireland may look to a different centre partnership for the game but we shall see as the talk is that Garry Ringrose will again miss out through injury but it is a chance to find another outside centre to try and challenge Ringrose in the short to medium term….

I will now select my 23 to face Italy in the first of three home fixtures in this Championship…

15 Ciaran Frawley

14 Calvin Nash

13 Robbie Henshaw

12 Bundee Aki

11 James Lowe

10 Jack Crowley

9 Craig Casey

8 Caelan Doris

7 Nick Timoney

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Joe Mc Carthy

3 Finlay Bealham

2 Dan Sheehan

1 Cian Healy

16 Ronan Kelleher

17 Jeremy Loughman

18 Tom O Toole

19 Tadgh Beirne

20 Ryan Baird

21 Jamison Gibson Park

22 Stuart Mc Closkey

23 Jordan Larmour

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