Conor Buckley examines the options available to Declan Kidney, and offers his advice on who should be picked.
Ireland have an attractive fixture list this Autumn, facing the Springboks on Saturday week, followed by tests against Samoa, New Zealand and Argentina. I have compiled what I think is the strongest starting XV, and would welcome any feedback in the comments.
The fullback jersey stays with Leinster’s Rob Kearney. Geordan Murphy is set join the squad after the South African test, but don’t see him getting the nod ahead of Kearney in the big games against South Africa and New Zealand. Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls fill the wing spots whilst Luke Fitzgerald returns to the squad after hip and rib injuries, and he should make an appearance from the bench for the South African game.
Tried and tested combination of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy. Nothing to see here!
This possibly the biggest headache for Declan Kidney: Ronan O’Gara and Johnny Sexton likely to get pretty even game-time accross the 4 tests, and I expect O’Gara to start the opening game against the Springboks. Since Tomas O’Leary is out with a thumb injury, Peter Stringer has stepped back into the frame with some great performances for Munster, however, in-form Leinster scrumhalf, Isaac Boss will probably get the nod ahead of Stringer.
Kidney will go for the combination of Stephen Ferris, David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip for the South Africa and New Zealand tests, although Connacht’s John Muldoon is likely to get a start in the Samoa or Argentina game.
In the absence of Paul O’Connell, it’s likely to be the Munster combination of Donnacha O’Callaghan and Mick O’Driscoll with Leinster’s Devin Toner starting the Samoa/Argentina test.
Tony Buckley has finally usurped John Hayes in the front-row, whilst Cian Healy will take the loosehead spot and due to Jerry Flannery being injured, Rory Best will start at hooker.
Keep an eye out for Sean Cronin in the Samoa/Argentina game, his recent form for Connacht has been outstanding – check out this video for an example of his pace from their recent match against Bayonne in the Amlin Challenge cup.
My Ireland Starting XV
15. Rob Kearney
14. Tommy Bowe
13. Brian O’Driscoll
12. Gordon D’Arcy
11. Keith Earls
10. Ronan O’Gara
9. Isaac Boss
8. Jamie Heaslip
7. David Wallace
6. Stephen Ferris
5. Mick O’Driscoll
4. Donnacha O’Callaghan
3. Tony Buckley
2. Rory Best
1. Cian Healy