With the news of Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose’s lengthy injuries, Ireland’s November opponents will be licking their lips.
Ringrose has recently been ruled out of action for up to five months after surgery on a niggling shoulder problem. This, combined with Henshaw already being ruled out for four months after tearing his pectoral muscle off the bone, has Ireland looking seriously depleted in the midfield.
This will force Joe Schmidt to try out some fresh faces in the centre. Obviously, this is not ideal when facing three of the top ten teams in the world over a gruelling three-week period. But this can also be looked at as a positive learning experience and chance to blood some new midfield partnerships ahead of the 2019 RWC.
The Likely Options:
Marshall will be hoping to do himself justice if he gets a decent run of games in the number 12 jersey.
He has shown in the past that if he keeps a cool head, his strength and pace combine well to make him a very tricky centre.
Schmidt may have to revert Payne back to centre for the November series due to recent injuries.
Although Payne has performed excellently from fullback, his game management and defence is something Ireland will desperately need in the centre.
The Wildcard Options:
Rory O’ Loughlin
O’Loughlin is a tricky, versatile and pacey back. He has shown this with his ten tries for Leinster in 21 games last season.
He recently made his debut for Ireland against Japan and he has the ability to flourish, given more exposure to international rugby.
The powerful Connacht centre qualifies for Ireland in October and thus is available for the autumn internationals.
It has been a long time waiting for Aki but his skill set is superb and his strength combined with his pace makes for an extremely exciting centre that Schmidt will be eagerly waiting to get his hands on, should he declare for Ireland.
Scannell has a wide skill set, including being a skilled goal-kicker and playmaker, which makes him a great asset to any team he plays for.
He possesses a great combination of attack and defence and recently made his Irish debut on the summer tour, scoring six points in the process.
Stockdale is a huge talent, who came to light at under-20 level. He is a strong, tall, pacey back who has flourished for Ulster and was given a chance to do so for Ireland on the summer tour, a chance which he repaid with a try on his debut.
McCloskey is still hoping to build on the solitary Ireland cap he earned against England in 2016. After finally beating his injury problems, he came into form late last season for Ulster. He is still a big, strong centre and a devastating ball-carrier when fully fit.
Other potential players in this position are Noel Reid, Chris Farrell
Dylan O’Regan, Pundit Arena