Relatively speaking, injuries have been kind to Ireland thus far in the Six Nations Championship. That is of course if you’re not counting the midfield.
Joe Schmidt prepares for the Scotland showdown short on centres, with Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell ruled out. Therefore, Ireland will be forced to shake things up in the midfield as they aim to take another step towards the Grand Slam.
With Bundee Aki set to fill one of the slots, we look at the candidates to partner the Connacht star.
Garry Ringrose made his long-awaited return from injury against the Southern Kings last weekend, and may be given another game this weekend when Leinster face the Scarlets. A fully fit Ringrose would mean this is a non-decision, but that all depends on if the 23-year-old is trusted to be thrown straight back in after so little game-time.
As it’s a player who knows the system, Schmidt could well put his faith in the Leinster man.
Rory Scannell won his first three caps against the US and Japan last summer, so Schmidt has seen what he is made of. The Cork native has been impressive for Munster in recent times, and offers a playmaking role in the midfield, and has a left boot which can be a useful asset in open play.
It would appear that Ringrose is ahead of him in the pecking order, but should Ringrose fail to prove his fitness, Scannell could be the go-to man.
The dark horse
Stuart McCloskey is perhaps the forgotten man in the international picture, but it’s not too long ago that he was a trusted lieutenant of Schmidt. Before the emergence of Ringrose and Aki, McCloskey was right in the mix.
Two years ago, Ireland headed to Twickenham with a centre partnership of McCloskey and Henshaw, and the Ulster star acquitted himself well. The 25-year-old featured more recently against Fiji in November. He sent a timely reminder to Schmidt with a try against Scarlets at the weekend, and could be a dark horse to be brought into the camp next week.
The versatility options
Keith Earls and Fergus McFadden have both played in the midfield at the top level. However, bringing the Limerick native into the midfield would leave a gap out wide, and it would very much be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Meanwhile, the Kiwi head coach has never been shy to admit his admiration for McFadden, who is an option should he be considered.
In theory, Johnny Sexton could move to 12. The out-half does have some experience at 12, and if Joey Carbery started at 10, Sexton could push out. It’s probably fair to say that Ireland are at least another three or four injuries away before this option would be seriously considered.
Don’t make me laugh
Ian Madigan could…actually no, forget it.