Andy Farrell this afternoon named his first XV after plenty of shadow boxing in recent days with many trying to put their own sides together to see could they put a team together similar to the side that Andy Farrell named today.
He has given Caelan Doris his first cap after playing with Leinster over the past 2 seasons. He was part of the 2018 under 20 Irish side and was the captain of that side. He has taken his chance along with Max Deegan since Sean O Brien left Leinster to join London Irish and the injury that Jack Conan suffered at the World Cup.
What this team does suggest is that they will be very mobile at the breakdown and around the field with Josh Van Der Flier and CJ Stander teaming up with Doris in a back row that has plenty of experience.
At half back Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton will combine and John Cooney will have to wait his turn from the bench with Luke Mc Grath also having to wait at least another week for a chance to impress.
As has been pointed out 10 players who played New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup quarter final will be involved this weekend.
Players like Billy Burns, Luke Mc Grath and Stuart Mc Closkey should get the opportunity to play in this campaign and the early sound bites from the Farrell camp is that if your inform you will be given the chance to shine and although the fact John Cooney hasn’t ousted Conor Murray from the 9 jersey will be questioned, the inclusion of Ross Byrne does suggest that Farrell will give players a chance to come off the bench.
The hope is that the replacements will get more time than a token of 5 or 10 minutes toward the end of a game. We will have to wait and see what way this team will play with Mike Catt brought onboard as attack coach. The style of play can’t be second guessed until Saturday evening.
Andy Farrell will be thankful to how the fixtures have fallen in this campaign with two homes fixtures against Scotland and then Wales in Dublin before facing England in the 3rd game after the first break in the 6 Nations. If Ireland can win those first 2 games then everything is possible going into that game with England at Twickenham.
The focus will now hone in on Scotland and starting this 6 Nations with a morale boosting win. Scotland were beaten in the opening game of the 2019 World Cup by Saturday’s opposition and you can be sure Gregor Townsend will use that loss as a motivating tool to help his squad.
The decision to drop Finn Russell for a breach in team protocol would have stung but Adam Hastings will most likely benefit from the decision to leave Russell out of the opening weekend’s game with Ireland.
All roads will now lead to the Aviva Stadium for the start of the Andy Farrell era….