Bernard Jackman has expressed his disappointment in Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad for Italy, labelling his selections a “missed opportunity”.
Farrell omitted the likes of Harry Byrne and Gavin Coombes for the upcoming Six Nations encounter with the Italians, and will likely select a near full-strength team for the game in Rome.
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“The uncapped Gavin Coombes, every time he plays, he just makes a statement and with Peter O’Mahony being suspended, I think that was an opportunity lost,” Jackman said.
“He looks like somebody who could feature for Ireland, particularly with [Caelan] Doris being out. He has that explosiveness that maybe we’re lacking a little bit.
“[John] Cooney and [Jack] Carty are capped already but I just think it must be so hard for them, being first choice for their province, playing well for [Ulster and Connacht] and seeing three of the four half-backs against France not being first choice and not performing, and [they are] still outside of the group.
“The big thing is that the selections are logical and I think there is certainly a feeling in Irish rugby at the moment that it’s not really clear what Andy Farrell is looking for. That’s fine, he’s trying to find his way himself.
“But when you are outside the squad and playing well and you see players who potentially aren’t taking their opportunities in the squad or aren’t starting for their province it certainly is frustrating.”
‘A loss to Italy would be catastrophic’
Despite two heavy losses against France and England, Italy have shown some nice attacking flair in the Six Nations so far, largely thanks to young half-backs Stephen Varney and Paolo Garbisi.
However, Jackman was adamant that a loss to the Italians could not be tolerated.
“Italy are making strides, but not to get ahead of ourselves, if we were to go and lose over there with an experienced team it would be catastrophic.
“He’ll want to get the team into shape and get a bit of cohesion for Scotland [14 March] on, who now look like a real threat and challenge.
“Farrell is under pressure now and he’s going to go with an experienced team to try and salvage a Six Nations, which, at the moment, looks like we are heading for a fourth or fifth-place finish.”