With confidence in the Ireland camp at what must be an all-time high, we take a look at what team Joe Schmidt could pick to face Georgia this week.
Joe Schmidt has the perfect opportunity to rest some key players in preparation for the Australia game on the 22nd of this month. It’ll be interesting to see what mix of experimentation and experience Ireland send out this Sunday.
The Georgia game will probably be the only game prior to the World Cup where Ireland can afford to make wholesale changes to their team and it is the perfect opportunity to test some of the lesser experienced players on the fringes of the panel.
1. Dave Kilcoyne
Kilcoyne’s form over the past two games with Munster has been good, scoring two tries in his last two. He deserves a start for Ireland, having only played seven minutes last weekend.
Kilcoyne will surely be looking to gain as much international experience between now and the World Cup as he can, with Cian Healy out injured until February at least.
2. Sean Cronin
Ireland struggled at the lineouts last weekend against probably the best lineout in the world. The Georgia game might be ideal for Cronin to work on his darts in a competitive environment, although it’s likely he will lose his place in the starting team to Rory Best for the Australia game.
3. Rodney Ah You
Like Kilcoyne, Ah You only played seven minutes last weekend. The Georgia game is an opportunity to rest Mike Ross and also to see what Ah You has to offer at international level.
4. Dave Foley
Foley is probably the form Irish lock this season and deserves a starting place to show what he can do. If Foley was to transfer his club form to the international stage he might force his way into the match-day 23 to face Australia.
5. Devin Toner
Having Toner retain his place in the second row would give Ireland and Sean Cronin some continuity from last week in an effort to fix their malfunctioning line-out.
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
O’Mahony is still working his way back to match fitness. The South Africa game was only his 4th start since getting injured last April. Another 60 minutes would do him the world of good before facing Australia later in the month.
7. Tommy O’Donnell
O’Donnell was a late addition to the 23-man panel last weekend and if Chris Henry is still suffering from a virus then O’Donnell is the obvious selection at open-side flanker.
O’Donnell would relish the opportunity to show his dynamic ball carrying ability next weekend in the Aviva.
8. Rhys Ruddock
Number eight is one of the few positions where Ireland have no obvious back up. The Georgia game at the weekend is the perfect time to test out Ruddock’s credentials in this position. Ruddock put in a good performance against South Africa, scoring the opening try in the process.
9. Kieran Marmion
With Murray as the out and out first choice scrum half, it’s between Marmion and Reddan to fight for the reserve scrum half position.
Marmion, once again has been one of Connaught’s stand-out players over the last few seasons and deserves some more international recognition.
10. Ian Madigan
Despite being Ireland’s second choice out-half, Madigan has very little experience playing at 10 this season, making it important for him to get game-time there when possible.
There is no doubt about his running, passing or goal-kicking ability, however his game management skills aren’t what’s needed for an international fly-half and it certainly doesn’t help that he doesn’t get to improve on this by playing at 10 on a weekly basis.
It’s unlikely Madigan’s game management skills will be tested this weekend, however as he would be likely to be playing off go-forward ball for the majority of the game. If Sexton were to be injured going into an important game, this writer would prefer to go with a more solid selection in the form of Ian Keatley on current form.
11. Luke Fitzgerald
Although he wasn’t on the official training panel, the Leinster back could be seen in a few of the photos from Ireland’s training last week.
Fitzgerald hasn’t played any international rugby since he filled in at 13 against the All-Blacks last November, due to injury. He will be looking to put a desperate run of injuries behind him in an effort to break into the team before the 6 Nations in February, and the world cup beyond that.
12. Stuart Olding
Having fully recovered from the ACL injury that has kept him out of action for the majority of last season, the 21 year-old is trying to break his way into both the Ulster and the Ireland team.
Gordon D’Arcy would be the obvious choice at inside centre, although it’s hard to see what benefit D’Arcy would gain from a game against Georgia.
13. Robbie Henshaw
With Jared Payne looking likely to miss the game due to injury, it might be a good chance to see what Henshaw can do in the outside channel having played most of his rugby there this season.
With Ireland likely to have the majority of possession it would be good to see some of Henshaw’s attacking capability in this game. There is also the option to swap Henshaw and Olding in the centre positions in order to keep some continuity in the 12 jersey.
14. Craig Gilroy
Gilroy failed to kick on from his debut season with Ireland, mainly due to injury and the return from injury of Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble.
Gilroy is now in a position to capitalise on injuries to both Dave Kearney and Trimble in an effort to win a place in the Ireland squad for the 6 Nations. A good performance on Sunday could see Gilroy be promoted to the bench for Ireland’s final November fixture against Australia.
15. Felix Jones
The Munster vice-captain has been one of the form players for his province in their opening two rounds of the European Rugby Championship Cup.
He deservedly won a place on the bench versus South Africa, coming on in the final few minutes and winning a great turnover at the breakdown.
16. R. Strauss
17. J. McGrath
18. S. Archer
19. M. McCarthy
20. D. Ryan
21. E. Reddan
22. I. Keatley
23. S. Zebo
Conor Luttrell, Pundit Arena