As we all know, an Irish squad hampered by injuries won the Six Nations over the weekend in spectacular fashion. However, just how good is this current crop of players? Matt Cassidy takes a look at fifteen players that were either injured or unselected for the entire campaign.
The final whistle has been blown and the fairy tale has come true. Joe Schmidt’s first experience of the Six Nations ended in triumph and Ireland’s finest centre Brian O’ Driscoll strolled off into the sunset with a cherished second medal around his neck in the stadium that he first showed the rugby world his powers.
However, amongst the furore and fanfare of the great achievements and retirement of the BOD of all centres is the fact that Ireland were shorn of a number of first choice players. Many critics believed Ireland had no chance with the personnel in place. The likes of Devin Toner, Chris Henry, Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble were all considered to be stop gap replacements. However, through excellent, consistent performances these men have put themselves in control of the jersey on their backs. There is now a real depth to the Ireland squad and when one looks at a potential lineup of who did not participate in the Championship at all, it is obvious that the national team is in rude health.
Ireland’s Unselected Fifteen
The criteria for this selection is that the player did not see any game time during the Six Nations so the likes of Luke Marshall, Tommy O’Donnell and Ian Madigan are not included.
1.David Kilcoyne, Munster, 8 Caps
The Munster loosehead has found himself out in the cold since Schmidt took over the reins of the national team. A solid scrummager and explosive ball carrier he will hope a good run in the European Cup for his province will be enough to persuade the Kiwi coach that Kilcoyne deserves a place on the plane for Argentina this summer.
Honourable Mentions: Brett Wilkinson (Connacht) James Cronin (Munster)
2.Rob Herring, Ulster, 0 Caps
The South African who qualifies for Ireland through his grandparents is probably next in line to the top two hookers in Ireland, Rory Best and Sean Cronin. After a shaky start to his Ulster career Herring has improved with every game, with an emphasis on high work rate. The Wolfhounds’ appearance against The Saxons will have given him plenty of confidence to kick on but his darts must improve if he is to challenge for a Test jersey.
Honourable Mention: Mike Sherry (Munster)
3.Declan Fitzpatrick, Ulster, 7 caps
The tighthead’s contribution versus the All Blacks would have gone down in Irish rugby folklore, had Ireland won, due to the amount of carries the Ulster man made in his fifteen minutes on the field. However, a combination of always being injured and the bearded one, John Afoa, has meant Fitzpatrick has dropped down the pecking order behind Leinster’s Martin Moore. A good scrummager, Fitzpatrick needs more game time if he wants to add to his 7 caps.
Honourable Mentions: Rodney Ah You (Connacht), John Andress (Worcester)
4.Donnacha Ryan, Munster, 28 caps
The Nenagh man has been blighted by injury all season. A strong line operator and a top workrate makes the Munster lock an invaluable part of any team. Many observers were calling for a spot on the bench against England after he made his comeback in the Pro12. However, Schmidt decided otherwise and Ryan will have to wait until the Argentina game to see if he can add to his caps’ tally.
Honourable Mention: Ryan Caldwell (Bath)
5.Mike McCarthy, Leinster, 15 caps
It has been a frustrating season for the English born Irish international. He has struggled with his move to the Capital and failed to get regular game time. This has resulted in the likes of Devin Toner and Dan Tuohy bypassing him into the Irish squad. A tireless worker and strong tackler, McCarthy must start churning out performances for the Dublin side before he thinks of the national team.
Honourable Mentions: Mick Kearney (Connacht) Ian Nagle (Munster)
6.Stephen Ferris, Ulster, 35 caps
The Portadown powerhouse made his long awaited return to the paddock with a crunching hit on a poor Scarlets player at Ravenhill last Friday. Ferris’ explosive running and destructive tackling is an asset to any team he plays in. The blindside flanker must put a string of games together for the Northern province before he turns his mind to national recognition and attempts to usurp current incumbent Peter O’Mahony.
Check out Ferris’ return for Ulster. Oomph!
Honourable Mentions: Rhys Ruddock (Leinster) Robbie Diack (Ulster)
7.Sean O’ Brien, Leinster, 30 Caps
The groans that went around the RDS when the Carlow man was carried off the field in December was symptomatic of what the country was feeling. The Tullow Tank had broken down and Irish Rugby fans feared for the upcoming Six Nations. Chris Henry did a sterling job in his absence but Schmidt and every person with the smallest rugby knowledge understand the importance of O’ Brien’s breakdown work and ball carrying for Ireland.
Honourable Mentions: Shane Jennings (Leinster) Willie Faloon (Connacht)
8.Robin Copeland, Cardiff Blues, 0 Caps
The barnstorming No. 8 has had a great season in the Welsh Capital. His power running has been one of the few bright sparks of an awful term for the Blues. A Wolfhounds’ appearance may be the sign of more international honours to come for the Wexford man.
Honourable Mentions: Roger Wilson (Ulster) James Coughlan (Munster)
9. Kieran Marmion, Connacht, 0 Caps
The scrum half has probably been Connacht’s player of the season to date. He is a livewire around the base of the ruck and is constantly looking for a cheeky break. Unfortunate not to get an appearance in this year’s Championship as Schmidt went for the power of Conor Murray and experience of Eoin Reddan. Marmion must be capped in Argentina.
Honourable Mentions: James Hart (Grenoble) Isaac Boss (Leinster)
10. J.J. Hanrahan, Munster, 0 Caps
The Kerry stand-off gets better every time he steps out onto the pitch. If Hanrahan can secure a regular starting berth for Munster until the end of the season then a ticket to Argentina is well within his grasp.
Hanrahan’s memorable try against Perpignan:
Honourable Mentions: Gareth Steenson (Exeter Chiefs) Ian Keatley (Munster)
11. Simon Zebo, Munster, 6 caps
The Munster speedster came back from injury and was scoring tries for fun in the league whilst the Six Nations was taking place. Pundits and fans, especially from Ireland’s most southern province believed that the Corkman should have been parachuted into the Irish squad after the England defeat. Zebo is a genuine match winner but there is belief that Schmidt thinks the winger does not work hard enough during games. Plus the no nonsense Kiwi apparently takes a dim view of Zebo’s show pony celebrations.
Honourable Mentions: Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster) Craig Gilroy (Ulster)
12. Ian Whitten, Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps
For those who watch the Aviva Premiership on a regular basis, they will know that the Chiefs centre is as consistent as they come. A good distributor of the ball and a physical player, Whitten has made himself an integral cog of England’s most improved club side.
Honourable Mentions: Stuart Olding (Ulster) Eamonn Sheridan (London Irish)
13. Darren Cave, Ulster, 5 Caps
Outside the great Brian O’Driscoll, Cave is the only Irish player who takes to the field with the number 13 on his back on a fixed basis. A silky runner, with a great eye for a gap, Cave has excellent distribution and a rugby brain. The Hollywood man has never been given a proper chance at Test level but with BOD retiring it is Cave’s best chance to gain international caps. However, the Ulster man should not moan if he does not get picked for Argentina and perhaps take a leaf out of Andrew Trimble’s book who, after the disappointment of not being selected in November, said, “You can get bitter or get better!”
Honourable Mention: Fergus Mulchrone (London Irish)
14. Tommy Bowe, Ulster, 54 caps
The Monaghan man has plundered three tries in one and a half games for Ulster since his comeback from injury against the All Blacks in November. The winger is powerful, quick and an excellent fielder of the high ball. On his day he is undoubtedly the best three quarter in Europe. However, he will have a battle to get his Ireland jersey back after Andrew Trimble’s Six Nations’ showings.
Honourable Mentions: Keith Earls (Munster) Shane Monahan (Gloucester)
15.Robbie Henshaw, Connacht, 3 caps
Many have touted the 20-year-old as the heir apparent for the 13 jersey. But Henshaw must play more in the outside centre berth for Connacht if he is to be considered a serious replacement for O’ Driscoll. At the moment, the Westmeath man has serious potential to become a world-class fullback. Let’s hope the men in charge pick a set position for Henshaw soon as we do not want a wonderful Irish prospect to become a jack of all trades, master of none.
Honourable Mentions: Felix Jones (Munster) Niall Morris (Leicester Tigers)
Pundit Arena, Matt Cassidy.
Featured Image By Fearless Fred [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Kieran Marmion By PierreSelim (Self-photographed) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.. Donnacha Ryan By fearless fred (http://flickr.com/photos/25367139@N00/8637325767) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.