Time to hear from our Ireland selectors…this week our Ulster fan Laura Johnston picks her team to face Samoa…
Just a reminder folks…the contributors’ task is to pick a matchday 23 as if the test were being played next weekend so they must take current injuries into account.
We are now in November. November means the autumn internationals are just around the corner. Actually they have already started with England’s win over Australia, but for Ireland they start this Saturday.
The first two rounds of the Heineken Cup have been completed. Leinster and Ulster are unbeaten, Munster slipped up against Edinburgh, but they got back on track against Gloucester. Connacht came close to beating Saracens and won against Zebre.
Joe Schmidt has named his first Ireland squad. Some may disagree with some of his omissions i.e. Trimble, Kilcoyne Wilson etc.
Injuries to Donnacha Ryan, Iain Henderson and Simon Zebo, mean Joe has to think about who will take their place in the match day 23.
I was going to base my team, on who I think Joe Schmidt would pick for the Samoa game on Saturday, but I have decided to pick the team I think will play, in the majority of the internationals, based on the squad he has picked.
- Cian Healy – He is the in form loose head at the moment in Ireland. When he is fit, I can’t see anyone taking the no 1 shirt off him.
In my previous blogs I have said that I see David Kilcoyne getting the No 17 shirt. Unfortunately he isn’t In the 34 man squad, so for me No 17 will be Tom Court, simply because he has more international experience than Jack Mcgrath.
- Rory Best – He is playing well at the moment, although he picked up an ankle injury against Cardiff Blues last week, and left Ravenhill in a moonboot. Because of this injury, I’m not 100% sure he will start against Samoa, but if he is fit he will start.
As I have said previously Sean Cronin is my no. 16. If Best isn’t fit then Cronin will start at hooker and Mike Sherry will be on the bench.
- Mike Ross - He picked up a hamstring injury against Ospreys in the Heineken Cup (12/10/2013), and he hasn’t played since. If he is fit he will start, as he is the best Irish tight head in Ireland, at the moment.
If Ross fails to be fit, I think Declan Fitzpatrick will start, as he has performed well for Ulster while John Afoa was injured. Stephen Archer would be the replacement TH (17) to Fitzpatrick (3) if Ross isn’t fit.
- Paul O’Connell – He is still one of the first names on the Ireland team sheet even at 34. Great leader and still playing as good as ever.
Previously I said had Donnacha Ryan should be O’Connell’s second row partner, but unfortunately he has knee ligament damage, and is out until the New Year. Hopefully he will be back for 6 Nations.
Injury to Ryan means Schmidt, has the chance to try someone else at no 5. My choice is Dan Tuohy.
- Dan Tuohy – Dan has been playing well for Ulster, and partnering captain Johann Muller in an ominous Ulster second row. He scored two tries against Cardiff Blues last week, and makes a lot to ground with ball in hand.
No 19 for me would be Mike McCarthy.
My back row is unchanged from previous blogs. I still think it is the backrow that would make the biggest impact for Ireland against southern hemisphere opposition.
- Chris Henry – He is still just a little bit more natural at no 7 than SOB, and is still playing well for Ulster.
- Jamie Heaslip – I don’t see him losing the no 8 shirt anytime soon.
Although Roger Wilson has performed very well over the last few weeks at both 8 and 6 for Ulster .He was not included in the original Ireland squad, although he was called up for training last week, but released back to Ulster for their Rabo fixture against the Scarlets.
The no 20 shirt for me goes to Peter O’Mahony. He is playing well for Munster and he is versatile as well.
- Conor Murray – He is playing well and should still be Ireland’s first choice scrumhalf.
The no. 21 shirt I think will be Eoin Reddan. He is playing well for Leinster at the moment, and is a good impact sub off the bench, as he has a different playing style to Conor Murray.
- Jonny Sexton - Is still Ireland’s first choice kicker/no. 10. From what I have heard he is playing well in France (I don’t have BT sport, so I’m going off what I’ve been told). The only way I see him losing the no 10 shirt, is through injury.
The no. 22 shirt / replacement fly half for me is Paddy Jackson. He played really well, and kicked superbly in both of Ulster’s Heineken Cup games. In particular against Montpellier where he controlled the game really well and even made a try saving tackle.
Ian Madigan is another choice, although I think Jackson has the upper hand at the moment, as he has been playing regularly at 10 for Ulster. Unfortunately for Madigan, Jimmy Gopperth is playing and kicking supremely at the moment for Leinster.
- Fergus McFadden – With Injury to Simon Zebo, who more than likely would have started, Schmidt has to find someone to fill the no 11 shirt. I have chosen Fergus McFadden. The reason for this is his strength and his speed. He also makes good decisions in open play and is playing well for Leinster on the wing. He can also play at centre which is a bonus.
- Luke Marshall - He has played well over the last few games for Ulster. His running lines are superb and he gains a lot of ground with ball in hand. Possibly best 12 in Ireland at the moment? He will hopefully also just keeping getting better and stay Ireland no. 12 in the run up to RWC 2015.
- Robbie Henshaw – Brian O’Driscoll hasn’t played since 27 September and Robbie has impressed me, when playing for Connacht at 13.
Injury to O’Driscoll should give Schmidt the opportunity to try a few others at 13. Other number 13’s playing well for the provinces at the moment are Darren Cave, Brendan Macken and Jared Payne (although he isn’t Irish qualified till end of season). I picked Robbie because he is young (RWC in mind) and as I said, he has impressed me for Connacht.
- Tommy Bowe - Tommy is a cert to start when he is fit, and he is at the moment. He is playing really well. He’s aerial skills have been phenomenal over the last few week and they have helped him score two tries.
- Rob Kearney – I don’t see him losing the 15 shirt for Ireland anytime soon, unless he picks up and injury.
Due to O’Driscoll’s lack of game time I don’t see him starting against Samoa. I can see him however coming off the bench to get game time, so that he is fit for New Zealand and possibly Australia. Therefore O’Driscoll is my No 23.
My Ireland 23
- Cian Healy
- Rory Best
- Mike Ross
- Paul O’Connell
- Dan Tuohy
- Sean O’Brien
- Chris Henry
- Jamie Heaslip
- Conor Murray
- Jonny Sexton
- Fergus McFadden
- Luke Marshall
- Robbie Henshaw
- Tommy Bowe
- Rob Kearney
- Sean Cronin
- Tom Court
- Declan Fitzpatrick
- Mike McCarthy
- Peter O’Mahony
- Eoin Reddan
- Paddy Jackson
- Brian O’Driscoll
@LauraJ2803 is a Ulster rugby season ticket holder and has been for the past 7 years, she has been there through the highs and the lows and is hoping there are plenty more highs to come