Next up in our Irish team-selecting project is our Ulster blogger Laura Johnston…
Remember...the task is to select a matchday 23 from available players as if there was to be a test match next weekend.
Click here for Laura’s last selection and these links for the latest from Connacht, Munster & Leinster.
The autumn internationals are over for another year, and the Heineken Cup is just around the corner. Ireland performed well against Samoa, struggled against Australia and played a game against New Zealand with a passion, we haven’t seen for a long time.
The boys gave 100% last Sunday in a packed Aviva, but the All Blacks, as they are renowned for doing, kept going until they got the win. Every player in green played their best game for Ireland in my opinion, so the heartbreak was even more painful.
I could just take the easy option and pick the team that started against the All Blacks, but I’m not, I am going to base my team on the players who are currently in form.
- Cian Healy: - Don’t see anyone taking the starting jersey off him just yet, Richie McCaw knows why.
I wasn’t sure of Jack McGrath’s inclusion in the squad, but his performances over the last few weeks have changed my opinion.
17. Jack McGrath
Unfortunately Rory Best got Injured after an impressive 15 minutes against NZ, including, a try against the best team in the world, breaking his arm, and trying to clear out a ruck with a broken arm. The later showing the grit and determination that Rory has.
- Sean Cronin: - Because of injury to Best my starting hooker is Sean Cronin, and he thoroughly deserves it. His performance after coming on for Best proved he is definitely the right man to fill Rory’s boots.
I have always seen him as a like for like replacement for Best, although he has a lot more pace in the open.
16. Mike Sherry
- Mike Ross: - Still the best man for the job, although he isn’t getting any younger. I would like to see the likes of Fitzpatrick, Archer and even Moore and Lutton getting some game time, over the next year or so. That means when Mike retires or gets injured, we aren’t stuck with the question that will play tight head for Ireland?
18. Declan Fitzpatrick
- Paul O’Connell:- Who else would be the first lock you write on the team sheet?
Was outstanding against NZ, and lead from the front during the Autumn Internationals, but then again he is a born leader. His return to the green shirt against Samoa was welcomed by a standing ovation, showing how much he is loved by Irish rugby fans.
- Dan Tuohy: - Although Toner and McCarthy played really well, in all the autumn international games, especially against New Zealand. I think Dan Tuohy should have got some game time, even if it was against Samoa. He has been outstanding for Ulster this season, and is probably the second best second row behind O’Connell at the moment in Ireland. He continuously breaks defensive lines, and is good with ball in hand. I was surprised to see him overlooked.
19. Mike McCarthy
My backrow is the same as the one Schmidt picked to face Australia & New Zealand. All three were outstanding and very dangerous in the open. It was a pity Chris Henry got injured against Samoa as I would have loved to have seen him up against Michael Hooper and Richie McCaw.
- Peter O’Mahony:- Peter really impressed me over the Internationals, if all the Ireland backrow are fit come the 6 Nations, including Ferris, Schmidt will have a nice headache.
- Sean O’Brien:- The Tullow tank is the Tullow tank, don’t think anyone would leave him out of their team.
- Jamie Heaslip: - Jamie has received a lot of criticism over the last year regarding his performances in a Green shirt. I think he has proved his critics wrong, on the Lions tour and autumn internationals.
20. Kevin McLaughlin
- Conor Murray: - He is currently Ireland’s best choice at scrumhalf. He performed very well against New Zealand and I was surprised to see him on the bench against Australia.
21. Eoin Reddan
- Jonny Sexton: - He played well considering his packed French rugby calendar and having a niggling hamstring injury. He was unfortunate to miss his last penalty against the All Blacks. Still Ireland’s first choice fly half in my opinion. Jackson proved his critics wrong against Samoa and recently with Ulster. He has just that little bit more game time at fly half than Ian Madigan
22. Paddy Jackson
- Craig Gilroy: - Although he has just come back from injury and Dave Kearney has done nothing wrong, I think Gilroy has a bit more creativity on the wing. He somehow manages to wriggle his way through tackles, through a series of well-timed spins and his speed. He has been very impressive in his last few games for Ulster.
Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy played their best game in a green shirt in a while against New Zealand. Although will they make the next RWC? Probably not, so with this in mind I have picked Luke Marshall and Brian O’Driscoll as my centres.
- Luke Marshall: - The decision to pick D’Arcy against New Zealand was the right choice because of his experience. Although Luke is the future at no 12. He always makes ground with ball in hand and finds space between defenders.
- Brian O’Driscoll:- I don’t see him going to the next World Cup. He is still a legend for Ireland at 13. He played really well against NZ but I would like to see Darren Cave or Robbie Henshaw get some game time, so that when O’Driscoll retires we have a suitable replacement.
- Tommy Bowe: - He is probably Ireland first choice winger, although the young guys are starting to bite at his heels and he wasn’t his usual self in the air over the Autumn Internationals. But there is only one Tommy Bowe.
23. Dave Kearney
My Ireland 23
- Cian Healy
- Sean Cronin
- Mike Ross
- Paul O’Connell
- Dan Tuohy
- Peter O’Mahony
- Sean O’Brien
- Jamie Heaslip
- Conor Murray
- Jonny Sexton
- Craig Gilroy
- Luke Marshall
- Brian O’Driscoll
- Tommy Bowe
- Rob Kearney
- Mike Sherry
- Jack McGrath
- Declan Fitzpatrick
- Mike McCarthy
- Kevin McLaughlin
- Eoin Reddan
- Paddy Jackson
- Dave Kearney
@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