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14th Feb 2024

Seven changes in our ridiculously strong Ireland team to face Wales

Patrick McCarry

“Capuozzo looked like a guy just out of his confirmation suit. Ridiculously small.”

Italy went up against a much-changed but fully focused Ireland team, in round two of the Six Nations, and got sent packing in emphatic fashion.

The likes of Ange Capuozzo, Paolo Garbisi and Stephen Varney all got dinged up by an Irish side that marauded around Lansdowne Road, making statements and eyeing more. The match ended 36-0 and it easily could have been a greater gulf. It was Ireland’s first time, in the championship, since 1987 since they kept an opponent scoreless but the post-match mood was all about ‘clunky’ moments and ‘work-ons’.

From the players brought in to face Italy, replacing those that started against France, Stuart McCloskey and Finlay Bealham were the stand-outs. Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Craig Casey and James Ryan all had decent contributions but there is a strong chance all six men could be back on the bench for Wales, or back holding tackle pads.

On the latest House of Rugby, myself and Lindsay Peat joined Máire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill in-studio and debated the possible changes for the February 24 game against Wales:

Jack Crowley, left, starts in our Ireland team but Ryan Baird may only feature if Ireland go with a 5:3 bench split. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

Sevens changes in our Ireland team

Looking back on the 36-0 win over Italy, Lindsay Peat would like to see Caelan Doris revert to his No.8 role but, in time, sees him as a great blindside option. On players that did the best with the starts offered to them, she commented:

“From what we have seen in those opening games and, with Andy Farrell, if someone is not doing it in training, that is noted. Stuart McCloskey said the same – there are no egos here. If you get your opportunity, you need to take your chance. But I don’t see any changes with that pack from the lads that started against France.

“James Ryan got through an awful lot of work that is not often credited… that gives you the sense of what a leader he is – he didn’t say anything [after being benched for France] and went about his business. He got through a heap of work… Right now, though, for the lineout and how Tadhg Beirne and big Joe (McCarthy) go about their business in the open field, they are slightly ahead. If everyone is fully fit, I would go with the same pack.”

When it comes to the backline, I would expect Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki to return, leaving the big areas of interest revolving around outside centre and fullback. Farrell said Robbie Henshaw, who started both games, ‘has his mojo’ back. Still, I would go with Garry Ringrose if he proves his fitness, as Aki-Ringrose is Ireland’s best centre pairing [in my opinion].

At fullback, if Hugo Keenan is out after his knee injury, Ciarán Frawley getting the 15 jersey makes the most sense. Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale are options but Farrell has tried both before, to mixed results.

You may notice Ross Byrne on the bench in my preferred match-day 23. If Crowley and Frawley are in our XV, I would go for the elder Byrne to take a bench spot ahead of Harry.


15. Hugo Keenan/Ciarán Frawley
14. Calvin Nash
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. James Lowe
10. Jack Crowley
9. Jamison Gibson-Park
1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Joe McCarthy
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, James Ryan, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.

Andy Farrell will name his Ireland team this Thursday afternoon (February 22).


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