Outhalf and secondrow main concerns as Farrell prepares to name Ireland squad

James Ryan and Iain Henderson have both been sidelined of late

Jack Carty has impressed for Connacht, starting 11 matches this season. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Getty Images

Jack Carty has impressed for Connacht, starting 11 matches this season. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Getty Images

 

Never before will an Irish Six Nations squad have had so little game time in the build-up to the tournament and hence, with such scant form to go by, this is likely to be reflected in the list of 38 names or so which Andy Farrell will unveil today for the 2022 edition. Changes from the 38-man squad chosen for the autumn series will be minimal.

Wales – Ireland’s opening opponents on Saturday, February 5th at the Aviva Stadium – are similarly affected after the Scarlets and Cardiff squads were ensnared in those postponed URC rounds in South Africa.

The Irish head coach will be particularly concerned about his stocks at outhalf and in the secondrow.

While Johnny Sexton’s 30-minute run-out against Montpellier and impending start against Bath next Saturday should leave him relatively well primed, Joey Carbery is still not back to full training and hasn’t played since the Munster’s round one win away to Wasps five weeks ago when he suffered a fractured elbow.

Whether or not he is named in the squad and included in the week-long camp in Portugal, the odds are against him being fit for the Welsh game.

Farrell and Mike Catt appear to have nailed their colours to the mast in anointing Harry Byrne, recently recovered from a hamstring injury, as the next outhalf in line but he hasn’t played since December 3rd, having won his second Test cap off the bench against Australia during the November internationals.

By contrast Jack Carty, who was added to the Irish squad as a late call-up that week, is not only revelling in Connacht’s attacking game but is altogether more match-hardened after starting 11 matches for his province this season.

James Ryan and Iain Henderson were again the de facto first-choice lock combination in November, starting both wins over the All Blacks and Argentina, but neither has played since. Both are likely to be named, even if the Welsh game could come too soon for Henderson, but at least Tadhg Beirne’s superb form offsets this.

In addition, with Ultan Dillane leaving Connacht at the end of the season, both Ross Molony, whose lineout skills and big plays in every game has established him in the Leinster second-row this season, Fineen Wycherley and Kieran Treadwell, are pushing hard for inclusion.

Others, such as Stuart McCloskey and Simon Zebo, are liable to suffer for their lack of game time, whereas both Michael Lowry and Mike Haley have been proving their wellbeing consistently.

Possible Ireland squad

Forwards

Hookers: Herring, Kelleher, Sheehan.

Props: Bealham, Furlong, Healy, Kilcoyne, O’Toole, Porter.

Locks: Baird, Beirne, Henderson, Ryan, Molony/Wycherley/Treadwell.

Backrows: Conan, Coombes, Doris, O’Mahony, Timoney, Van der Flier.

Backs

Scrumhalves: Casey, Gibson-Park, Murray.

Outhalves: H Byrne, Carty, Sexton.

Centres: Aki, Frawley, Henshaw, Hume, Ringrose.

Outside backs: Baloucoune, Conway, Earls, Keenan, Larmour, Lowe, Lowry.

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