Alan Quinlan is concerned that Ireland may not have enough of a “bruiser” in the second row to deal with the physicality of England and France.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell named a 37-man squad for the Six Nations on Wednesday, and selected James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, Ryan Baird and Kieran Treadwell in the second row.
Ryan, Henderson and Beirne are all talented and experienced international players at this stage and all impressed for their country in Ireland’s recent success in the Autumn Nations Series.
However, Quinlan was speaking to Virgin Media and expressed his concern about a potential lack of physicality in Ireland’s second row.
Alan Quinlan on his concerns with Ireland’s second row.
“If I had any concerns I think it would be when we come up against France and England and it’s really, really physical and attritional, we don’t have a big bruiser in that second row,” Quinlan said.
“I think Iain Henderson can do it. Sometimes I’d like to see him, and I’ve said this before – he’ll probably kill me if he ever meets me – just be a bit of a bruiser. Because he’s a brilliant footballer.
“He’s just someone who’s a real nuisance, who’s busting up mauls, who’s really physical. James Ryan is more of a footballer. He carries a little bit more but traditionally you want a big bruiser at four and more of a line out runner for the other second row.
“But when you come up against England and France it’s about dealing with that physicality and we can’t just dismiss a number of issues we’ve had in the last couple of years with physicality.”
“If I’d any concerns, when we come up vs France and England and it’s really physical, we don’t have a big bruiser in the second row.”
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) January 21, 2022
Second row match-ups.
While it is true that Ireland’s locks aren’t the biggest in the Six Nations, with the likes of France’s Paul Willemse standing at 2.01 metres and weighing in at 136 kilos, the Irish second row options are more skilful than most.
Beirne’s excellent ability to poach the ball on the ground is rare for a lock, while Baird, although inexperienced, is extremely athletic for a man standing at almost 2 metres tall.
Ireland’s second row options are all of a similar weight, with Baird and Beirne the lightest at 113 kilos, while Henderson is the heaviest at 116 kilos, which is somewhat on the light side for an international lock, but their skill often makes up for their relative lack of size.