With the Six Nations around the corner, our Ireland selection project fittingly enters its sixth round, this week, Connachtman…
Click this link for his last selection and these for the latest from Munster, Leinster & Ulster.
Remember…the general rule is to select a team based on current fitness for a test match to be played the following weekend. The contributors are allowed some leeway however, since it’s all to get debate going. Once it’s friendly debate of course! JLP
What a great weekend of Rugby it was, and a great weekend for the Irish Provinces once again, albeit with a disturbing lack of bonus points! Leinster will be delighted to have left Castres with four points in the bag after an immense performance from the home team.
The Leinster defending was sloppy at times but what more should you expect when the opposition Flankers and Centres are playing out of their skin! Jordi Murphy was found a little wanting at 7, a cautionary tale about what works in the League not necessarily transferring to the European stage.
Leinster won the game with their 8, 9, 10 axis, all of whom were superb in attack and in metres gained. Indeed, Eoin Reddan hasn't played like that since his Wasps days when he was one of the paciest breaking 9's around! Ulster will be worried once more about their mauling frailties, but have so much quality throughout the side that they can still pull it off in Welford Rd.
Munster put in a great showing at Kingsholm as Paulie inspired a hard shift of work from the young lads around him. My beloved Connacht fell short, but there is so much to be grateful for about where we are at coming in to the last round of the knockout stage that I am feeling upbeat about it! More to follow on that point...
Here's my Ireland selection for this week!
Loosehead: Cian Healy
Healy is back in straight into the starting pack. Without Sean O'Brien we need some top quality carrying and he's the man to provide it!
On the bench we have Jack McGrath who holds off a return to form Dave Kilcoyne down South.
Hooker: Rory Best
Rory is back and he's straight in! Ireland could use his work-rate around the park and he brings a shed-load of experience too.
Nugget Cronin will be sprung from the bench and produce eye-catching runs in midfield which will be fun to watch.
Varley is unlucky here as he put in a valiant effort on his return from injury.
Tighthead: Mike Ross
Rossy holds his place despite looking like he was under pressure at the weekend. His industry this season has been immense for such a big man. Good lad.
Deccie Fitzpatrick is having a solid season and holds his place.
Second Row: Iain Henderson and Paul O'Connell
Going against the grain here and selecting the Henderson in the Second Row. This team needs another top class carrier in the pack and with SOB out that means the big Nordy Monster is in! That leaves the big Ginger Monster to do what he does best and work incredibly hard around the park while making the lineout his own and pushing hard behind Mike Ross. Beautiful.
Devin Toner is rewarded with a bench spot. He's been defensively excellent this season.
Backrow: Peter O'Mahony, Chris Henry and Jamie Heaslip
O'Mahony returns and will be allowed some freedom to do whatever he wants given the hard-working, hard-carrying balance to the pack elsewhere, though we will expect to see him employed in the lineout more with Henderson being such a big unit. Jamie will revert to ruck mode and Henry will frustrate the bejaysus out of everybody on the opposition side, whilst charming the referee with a winning smile.
Tommy O'Donnell put in a great performance on Saturday and claims a bench spot.
Scrum Half: Conor Murray
Reverting to the incumbents in a very safe selection this week. If Rob Penney can do it, so can I! Class is permanent so who cares about form, etc. etc.
Eoin Reddan will come off the bench and if he's anything like he was at the weekend he'll be a handful around the fringes. Mind you, Redser seems to play under the assumption that teams will forget about his breaking threat if he only does it once a season so expect him to just stick to passing the ball, which he does very well in fairness.
Kieran Marmion is unlucky to drop out altogether, but I don't think we've seen the last of him...
Fly Half: Jonny Sexton
See reasons for picking Murray above. It is getting more and more frustrating for me to pick him every month when his team is such a shambles!
Paddy Jackson is putting in some mature performances this season and edging away from the competition behind Sexton. Special mention for Ian Keatley and his deft grubbers. Gwan Keaters!
Centres: Luke Marshall & Brian O'Driscoll
Marshall is in fine form for Ulster and once again just about holds off D'Arcy. Brian had one of those quiet outings on Sunday, though he did look mad for a fight at one point.
Wings: Luke Fitzgerald & Keith Earls
Luke is in great form at the moment and is an easy selection. Gilroy may be injured, and Zebo is only just back, meaning that a sharp-looking Keith Earls comes into the reckoning for the first time this season. I still have issues with his defensive game, but he holds off Dave Kearney for the right wing spot.
Fullback: Rob Kearney
Ugly drop-goals aside, he's playing pretty well at the moment. Seriously though Rob, could you please make them look prettier! Put some effort in like...
Robbie Henshaw will back up the backs from the bench. He's in great form.
Ireland team selection
1: Cian Healy
2: Rory Best
3: Mike Ross
4: Iain Henderson
5: Paul O'Connell
6: Peter O'Mahony
7: Chris Henry
8: Jamie Heaslip
9: Conor Murray
10: Jonny Sexton
11: Luke Fitzgerald
12: Luke Marshall
13: Brian O'Driscoll
14: Keith Earls
15: Rob Kearney
16: Sean Cronin
17: Jack McGrath
18: Declan Fitzpatrick
19: Devin Toner
20: Tommy O'Donnell
21: Eoin Reddan
22: Paddy Jackson
23: Robbie Henshaw
Connachtman [@connachtman87] - sometime blogger, long time reader, avid supporter of Connacht rugby against all odds and in any weather.