Soon after Joe Schmidt had been appointed as Ireland coach, it quickly became apparent that the kiwi favoured a certain type of winger.
Despite both fans and commentators questioning the selection of players such as Dave Kearney, his skill set suited the game plan Ireland looked to adopt under the Schmidt. The New Zealander wanted his wide men to be able to contest for possession as Conor Murray’s box kicks fell from the sky.
Although such a tactic proved effective, when Ireland came up against players like George North, Stuart Hogg and Anthony Watson, box kicking possession proved to be a dangerous ploy as it handed opponents the opportunity to counter attack.
Nevertheless, Schmidt has consistently preferred the dependability of Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe and Fergus McFadden over the likes of Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Matt Healy and Craig Gilroy.
However, given Trimble’s poor defensive performance against Bordeaux last weekend and the fact that each of Kearney, Bowe and McFadden are all either returning from injury or have fallen down the pecking order in their respective provincial sides, alternatives players might now be considered.
As a result, Schmidt could potentially break with his established wide men and opt for pair that have so far watched from the sidelines. However doing so would would also force the Irish coach to alter his tactics.
After all, there is little point asking the likes of Healy, Gilroy, Earls or the in form Niyi Adeolokun, to chase box kicks when their skill set is not suited to the challenge. The quartet of players are open field runners, with an ability to finish off opportunities when put into space.
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Moreover, if Schmidt is to select Jared Payne at full back and partner Robbie Henshaw with Gary Ringrose in midfield, Ireland could potentially field a very exciting backline filled with pace and youthful exuberance.
However, how likely is the hitherto conservative Schmidt going to change his approach?
Such a question is open to debate, but given how Ireland seemed to embrace a more expansive strategy in their games against England and South Africa, it is likely that Schmidt will continue in this vein in November.
[tie_slide]5. Craig Gilroy (Ulster)
Ulster’s Craig Gilroy was in danger of becoming one of Irish rugby’s forgotten players. Although he burst onto the international scene with a brilliant try against Argentina in 2012, he has so far only managed to add another seven caps to his haul.
However, Gilroy remains one of Ireland’s most consistent wingers. His performance against the Scarlets earlier this season underlining the winger’s ability.
[tie_slide]4. Matt Healy (Connacht)
After breaking into the Irish team last season, Matt Healy has already begun the process of establishing himself in Joe Schmidt’s squad this campaign.
Unlike many of the other Connacht players, Healy didn’t seem to suffer due to their lack of a proper pre-season, demonstrating his raw pace and brilliant footwork when given the opportunity.
However, after fracturing his hand against Edinburgh, Healy’s season has hit a bit of a speed bump and has yet to feature in their European campaign.
[tie_slide]3. Darren Sweetnam
After breaking into the Munster team last season, Darren Sweetnam has established himself in Rassie Erasmus’ side this season.
Like all wingers, Sweetnam is quick, but also possess a step and can offload the ball out of the tackle. While he may not be as prolific as Healy, the Munster player leads his rivals in terms of defenders beaten and offloads in the Pro12 this season.
Munster have to find a way of bringing him into the game more often.
2. Cian Kelleher (Connacht)
As much as Connacht were annoyed at losing Robbie Henshaw to Leinster last summer, that feeling was reciprocated after Pat Lam’s side announced the capture of Cian Kelleher.
Kelleher made an immediate impact with Connacht, starring against Glasgow while his team-mates struggled on the opening day of the season.
Tries quickly followed against Edinburgh, and Ulster, while his performance against Toulouse saw Kelleher beat six defenders and make 111 meters.
Although the November series might come too early for Kelleher, he is definitely a player with a big future.
[tie_slide]1. Niyi Adeolokun (Connacht)
Is there a better finisher than Niyi Adeolokun in Irish rugby at the moment?
Since joining Connacht from Dublin University in 2014, Adeolokun has crossed the line on 19 occasions and looks to be improving every week under Pat Lam.
Having already scored four times Connacht this season, Adeolokun must be in Schmidt’d reckoning this Autumn.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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Read More About: andrew trimble, Cian Kelleher, connacht, Craig Gilroy, Darren Sweetnam, dave kearney, ireland rugby, irish rugby, Joe Schmidt, Keith Earls, Leinster, matt healy, Munster, new zealand, Niyi Adeolokun, ulster