In The Loose Select Their Ireland Starting XV

With Joe Schmidt still finding his feet in the Ireland hot-seat the In The Loose team offer their helping hand. Sam Verralls (SV), Scottie Fessey (SF), Debbie Knight (DK), Dave Nicoll (DN) and Danny Murray (DM) offer their picks.

Full Back – Rob Kearney

15 - Rob Kearney

15. Rob Kearney – Such a trustworthy, sturdy Full Back. Solid under the high ball with an ability to challenge with the boot. One of the world’s best if he is on top form! SV

15. Rob Kearney – A gifted full back with bags of pace, seems to have fallen down the pecking order in the 6 nations but still world class on the counter attack. SF

15. Rob Kearney –  Hard to imagine that Kearney is a mere 26 years old he seems to have been around for a very long time. Simply one of the best full backs in the world! DK

15. Rob Kearney – Solid at the back with some flare in attack Kearney is simply one of the best full-backs in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment. DN

15. Rob Kearney – Kearney may not have featured all too prominently in the Lions set up but he remains one of the top fullbacks in global rugby. A true reminder that form is temporary class is permanent – you can expect to see Kearney’s reliable hands grasping any high ball launched at the Irish 22. DM

 

Right Wing – Tommy Bowe

14 - Tommy Bowe

14. Tommy Bowe – An intelligent, tactically aware winger. He makes up for strength, running lines and finishing ability for what he lacks in pace. Still one of the best 14s in the Northern Hemisphere. SV

14. Tommy Bowe – Still world class, showed how good he was in the summer. May not have got on the score sheet much but great attack and defence. SF

14. Andrew Trimble –  A player who in common with Earles is at home both on the wing or in the centres, he played well in the last 6 Nations tournament and will I think get his place to face the Southern Hem. DK

14. Tommy Bowe – When fit pretty much an automatic choice for Ireland. Able to exploit even the smallest of openings any team would be happy to include a finisher like Bowe. DN

14. Tommy Bowe – Bowe has over 50 caps for Ireland has delivered when needed on numerous occasions, he has undoubted talent and can put in a decent defensive shift when needed. Ireland’s 3rd highest try scorer of all time – As long as he is fit, he’ll be on the wing looking to exploit every opportunity that comes his way. DM

 

Outside Centre – Brian O’Driscoll

13 - Brian O'Driscoll

13. Brian O’Driscoll (If fit) – If he is fit, there is no real need to explain why BOD should start. One of the best ever. If he’s not fit, it would be nice to see Darren Cave get a run out. He looks like an ever improving player who is coming towards the peak of his career. SV

13. Brian O’Driscoll – Know he’s the elder statesman, but as a player and talisman he is up there with the best, there is no way I would leave BOD on the bench! SF

13. Keith Earls – A very controversial pick here, I know this is ‘god’s’ spot, but I think his fitness puts him at risk. Earls is a strong, fast flexible player. DK

13. Brian O’Driscoll – Even though it looks set to be his last season BOD is still one of the greatest players in world rugby. A fantastic all-rounder who continuously leads by example. DN

13. Brian O’Driscoll – Forget the Lions tour, forget Warren Gatland. Brian O’Driscoll is one of the greatest of all time and has even been named checked by Bruce F****ng Springsteen, I don’t think Davies and Gatland have that honour.  He sees things before they happen and offers more in a millisecond than some do in a career. There’s no way he will miss one last pop at the All Blacks. DM

 

Inside Centre – Ian Madigan (Because Scottie included him at 10)

12 - Ian Madigan

12. Luke Marshall – Powerful, ball carrying 12 with an added creative spark. Superb for Ulster and glad he resigned for them until 2015. Needs precious international experience. SV

12. Luke Marshall – Looks like a very strong centre, hard running and has good vision. think if he stays fit could be the one to fill BODs massive shoes. SF

12. Gordon D’Arcy– A player who brings experience to the midfield, a safe pair of hands who always gives his all. DK

12. Ian Madigan – His experience outside of Sexton at Leinster could easily be translated onto the international stage. Playing him between two such experienced players is the perfect way to get him accustomed to regular top class international rugby. DN

12. Ian Madigan – I have an unashamed love of Madigan. He is a supreme talent and has looked the part in almost every minute of every match he’s played. Slots in almost anywhere amongst the backs, The argument to play him at 10 will be huge and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there, I just think if he slots into 12 it offers a whole new level of potential across the back line. DM

 

Left Wing – Simon Zebo

11 - Simon Zebo

11. Simon Zebo – Splendid try scoring record and can pull defences apart. Likely to be one of Ireland’s top try scorers for the tests. SV

11. Simon Zebo – Showed his class in the Lions games he played in, has good pace and looks for space. SF

11. Simon Zebo – An exciting winger who has a little extra, not the biggest of players his skill on the ball as well as his speed puts him ahead of others. Especially with Tommy Bowe an injury doubt. DK

11. Simon Zebo – Zebo is simply a class act with pace and skill in abundance. His ability to find space and get over the try line could be key for Ireland. DN

11. Simon Zebo – Zebo is one of Ireland’s most exciting prospects. The combination of he and Bowe on the wings could be a real threat and I have little doubt that will be the pairing that Joe Schmidt looks to when making his stamp on the Irish squad. DM

 

Fly-half – Jonny Sexton

10 - Jonny Sexton

10. Ian Madigan – He is still only 24 and can terrorise any defence. With Madigan at 10, this backline would be massively creative and dynamic. A great Fly Half with plenty of potential. Sure he will be favoured by Schmidt. SV

10. Jonny Sexton – Another one who had a good summer down under, seems to have so much time on the ball. behind a pack going forward he is world class. SF

10. Jonny Sexton – Now plying his trade in France Sexton can only improve as a player, first pick at fly half for the Lions he has to be in the Ireland starting line up! DK

10. Jonny Sexton – I can understand why Ireland may be cautious of including any players who have moved away from the provinces but it would be an extremely confident coach who left out a player of Sexton’s undoubted quality. DN

10. Jonny Sexton – He plays in France now, not on Mars. It is incredible how quickly we forget Johnny just because he is playing his game on foreign shores. Lion’s out-half, arguably the best 10 in the northern hemisphere. Schmidt knows exactly what he has to offer with both boot and hand. DM

 

Scrum Half – Conor Murray

9 - Conor Murray

9. Conor Murray – Now a Lion, he looked a more rounded individual down under. Not only a physical presence, he looks more certain and experienced on the ball. SV

9. Conor Murray – A brilliant cameo in the third test setting up Jamie Roberts try, seems to have grown in stature. SF

9. Conor Murray – Having learnt from some of the best Murray has made the scrum half’s shirt his own. After a successful Lions tour I can see no other name on the number 9 berth. DK

9. Conor Murray – Despite strong competition for the jersey Murray seems to have the 9 shirt nailed down for Ireland at the moment.

9. Conor Murray – There are a lot of options at 9 for Ireland, Murray seems to edge out the others and if Munster continue to tick over and notch up results with Murray dishing out solid performances I can’t see any reason for him not to be first choice 9 come November. DM

 

Number 8 – Jamie Heaslip

8 - Jamie Heaslip

8. Jamie Heaslip – Still one of Ireland’s finest players. He gets through a tremendous amount of work and leads from the front. SV

8. Jamie Heaslip – Not at his usual best in the 6 nations or the lions, however recent games for Leinster hes looking to be getting close to form. SF

8. Jamie Heaslip – The first man on my team sheet, he plays in probably the key position in the pack, the passion when he turns out for his country is plain to see. An awesome Number 8! DK

8. Jamie Heaslip – A truly class 8, Heaslip has to be one of the first names on the Irish team sheet.

8. Jamie Heaslip – The Naas native found a serious run of form at the tail end of last season and carried it on to the Lions Tour. A natural leader and an obvious selection in terms of best foot forward. DM

 

Openside Flanker – Sean O’Brien

7 - Sean O'Brien

7. Sean O’Brien – One of the main line-breakers in the team. Parallel to this is his outstanding tackling ability and dominance at ruck time. Amazing to think he is still only 26! SV

7. Sean O’Brien – a great athlete, hard to stop due to his low centre of gravity. SF

7. Sean O’Brien – A player who can switch between flanker and number 8 after acting as Jamie Heaslip’s understudy, I think he’ll get a regular spot in the team. DK

7. Chris Henry – Playing a more natural 7 helps free up SOB to perform the kind or role Lydiate does for Wales. DN

7. Sean O’Brien – The Tullow Tank. Rumour has it if he looks at a cow long enough, it will milk itself. A beastly ball carrier and dependable player. Rarely goes missing or has an anonymous game. Blind side or open side, he’s going to feature. DM

 

Blindside Flanker – Peter O’Mahony

6 - Peter O'Mahony

6. Peter O’Mahony – O’Mahony is such a hardcore, feisty individual who adds to Ireland’s already sound lineout options. His grit can give Ireland the edge upfront. SV

6. Shane Jennings – one of Leinsters un sung heroes, very hard working flanker who does a lot of the unseen flanker stuff (ie disrupting) SF

6. Chris Henry – A player who’s risen through the ranks with Ireland, with the amazing Stephen Ferris absent through injury a less familiar name here. DK

6. Sean O’Brien – Playing SOB at blindside gives him a bit more freedom to put in huge hits and carry the ball along with Jamie Heaslip. DN

6. Peter O’Mahony – O’Mahony is an old fashioned flanker, not afraid to do the dirty work when it’s needed. Growing into the captaincy role at Munster and captained Ireland on the summer tour of USA and Canada, if he can keep his form he’ll be a major part of the Ireland back row. DM

 

Lock – Paul O’Connell

5 - Paul O'Connell

5. Paul O’Connell – The Irish enforcer. The man is as hard as they come. An old head that gives them a secure set piece and plenty of muscle when keeping the ball tight. Still Ireland’s finest Lock. SV

5. Paul O’Connell – 1st lions test thats it. SF

5. Paul O’Connell – Munster’s captain incredible! One of the best 2nd rowers in the world, I watched him lead Munster against Quins last year, a man any fan would want in their team! DK

5. Paul O’Connell – A real enforcer on the field who is also a fantastic leader. A great addition to any pack who showed some nice skills when fit on the Lions tour.

5. Paul O’Connell – Arguably the greatest leader of the modern era of Home Nations rugby. Adored by the Munster loyal and respected by everyone else O’Connell on one leg is worth selection. Learnt Afrikaans to increase the chances of winning lineouts against South Africa, an asset to any squad. DM

 

Lock – Donnacha Ryan

4 - Donnacha Ryan

4. Donnacha Ryan – Ryan will help get the quick ball the likes of Madigan and BOD can utilise. Playing him at Lock almost acts like a fourth Back Row and will make the forwards more mobile and dominant at the breakdown. SV

4. Devin Toner – an up and coming lock who now needs to have more time in the coal face, playing alongside POC will improve his game and give him confidence. SF

4. Donnacha Ryan – Not so hard to pick the tall boys of the pack they have to be the Munster pairing, I can see no other choice. Oh and this man must have the biggest smile in rugby! DK

4. Donnacha Ryan – His ability to play almost like a loose forward combined with his partnership for club and country make Ryan a strong pick at lock. DN

4. Mike McCarthy – Offers a lot more than the eyes see. Big Mike may be finding his feet at Leinster but his performances for Connacht last season earned him his time in the shop window, athletic and not shy on mucking in, McCarthy is a solid bet to partner Pauly. DM

 

Tighthead Prop – Mike Ross

3 - Mike Ross

3. Mike Ross – I still think Ireland have no real emerging Tighthead Props, therefore Ross is the safe option. He has plenty of experience and has the ability to create some issues for opposing Looseheads. Be interesting to see who challenges the no.3 jersey. SV

3. Tony Buckley – A big strong mobile prop. SF

3. Stephen Archer – Throwing my wild card in here, I’ve really struggled with this spot. So, I’m going with a young prop who performed well against big rivals Leinster in Munster’s recent win. DK

3. Mike Ross – Despite coming under pressure for the number 3 jersey Ross’ experience at the top level sees him edge in ahead for the time being. DN

3. Mike Ross – Much like Healy, Mike Ross is seeing a little bit more pressure in terms of new contenders to his jersey. That said, they are not on the level of Ross and Ireland are still thread bare in the tight-head department. I fear for the set piece if Mike Ross gets injured. DM

 

Hooker – Rory Best

2 - Rory Best

2. Sean Cronin – I’ve always been a fan of Cronin. For me, he again acts like another Back Row player and this means Ireland can play a very offensive, quick, pressurised style of rugby. He can make it hard work for defences if he breaks the line! SV

2. Rory Best – Probable Irelands best hooker at the moment (just) SF

2. Rory Best – The man who should always have been on the Lions list, sorry Saints fans but the red card in the final gave one of the best Northern Hem hookers his rightful place! DK

2. Rory Best – Best gets in mainly as a result of Richardt Strauss’s mis-fortune. Best now has to make the most of this opportunity and show his experience to nail down his place in the team. DN

2. Rory Best – I did have Richardt Strauss penned in for the starting hooker but given the unfortunate news of his heart condition, Strauss will not play. Best has a wealth of experience and while I am not a huge a solid, functional front row will do a world of good. His lineouts must be more reliable and consistent. Best will start, Cronin to come off the bench and offer a fresh set of legs to get about in the closing stages. DM

 

Loosehead Prop – Cian Healy

1 - Cian Healy

1.Cian Healy – Lenister’s and Irelands best. Shame he missed out on pretty much the whole Lions series through injury. With Healy at the helm the pack looks like a monstrous machine that could challenge any international side! Another dynamic ball carrier who will try to out scrum his opposite number. Also extremely fit and hardworking, not like your Loosehead’s of old. SV

1. Cian Healey – Great srummager, fantastic in the loose and a great runner. unstoppable at close range! (unless you have an elephant rifle!) SF

1. Cian Healy – Here is a prop who wouldn’t look out of place in the back row or even amongst the pretty boy backs. He’s fit, fast  and a good passer of the ball, be interesting to see how he gets on with the new scrum laws. DK

1. Cian Healy – A fantastic modern loosehead whose injury was a huge blow for the Lions. A huge unit who is solid in defence and able to take on defences ball-in-hand. DN

1. Cian Healy – Healy may be seeing an increase in competition for the loose head position but the former Belvedere College man is still Ireland’s best prop. Solid scum, dangerous in the loose and big hitter – Healy will be a defensive pin and attacking battering ram from the set piece. DM

Let us know what you think of our squad or who would be in yours below…

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