Gordon D’Arcy on the battle Ireland face; McClean says abuse has decreased

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Bundee Aki during Ireland training in Portugal ahead of the Six Nations. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Bundee Aki during Ireland training in Portugal ahead of the Six Nations. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The winds of change are blowing through the Ireland camp as the countdown to Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Scotland continues. Yesterday Andy Farrell named his first starting lineup as head coach with a few new faces earning their place thanks to good form with their provinces. This morning Gerry Thornley writes that “it says everything about the rich potential and form of Caelan Doris that Farrell has handed the Leinster number eight a debut and, off the bench, his fellow 21-year-old Ronan Kelleher.” Meanwhile, Gordon D’Arcy writes in his column this morning that this Ireland team has a lot to do to restore the nation’s faith and show their responsibility in playing for their country. “We want to be a team the Irish rugby public love watching. An aggressive forward pack, unbelievably hard to handle,” he writes.

A lot of this campaign will be about Ireland making a comeback from the disappointing Rugby World Cup , with Jacob Stockdale being one of those players. The Ulster man had a disappointing World Cup with the performance against New Zealand looking particularly under par but he says he wants to move on now. “I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily forgetting about it, it’s just about not dwelling on it. I think they are two quite different things. Yeah, I accept I didn’t have a [GOOD]World Cup,” he said yesterday. Meanwhile, the under-20s get their Six Nations campaign underway on Friday and one of the players looking to help them defend their Grand Slam title is the fourth coming of Sean O’Brien. Irish rugby’s youngest Sean O’Brien (19) was educated at Blackrock College where he won a Leinster Senior Cup medal as a fifth year but conceded that it was a growth spurt in Transition year that propelled him from peripheral figure to central casting and yesterday he spoke to John O’Sullivan. Don’t forget you can keep up to date with all of the news, analysis, opinion, features and more from this year’s Six Nations on our dedicated website.

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