WE’VE SURVIVED JUST over a week without Six Nations rugby, but we start all over again this Saturday when Italy come to Dublin.
Because it’s Italy, and because most at TheScore.ie believe a healthy team needs some rotation, we’ve had some heated exchanges these past seven days over who should come in and who should go out.
Because we couldn’t agree, we’ve decided to drag you lot into the argument. So see what you think of our selections to take on the Azzurri, or just skip straight to the comment section to offer your own two cents.
Joe Schmidt’s Thursday team announcement will give us a huge insight into the pressure Ireland’s coach is under. The Kiwi has spoken of deepening his player pool and Italy, for all their recent strides, is the perfect occasion to back up his words.
Luke Marshall was looking set for a recall before taking another hefty blow to the head. Gordon D’Arcy could do with cooling his jets — and Brian O’Driscoll is not missing his Lansdowne farewell — so Darren Cave comes into my team. It’s best to err on the side of caution with Jonny Sexton’s injured thumb so Paddy Jackson comes right in.
The Leinster duo of Jack McGrath and Martin Moore can set the stage for their experienced teammates — Healy and Ross — to see Ireland home. I’m resting Peter O’Mahony’s hamstring and giving Iain Henderson a starting chance while Simon Zebo deserves a spot on the bench.
R Kearney, A Trimble, B O’Driscoll, D Cave, D Kearney, P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Moore; D Toner, P O’Connell; I Henderson, C Henry, J Heaslip.
Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, M Ross, D Ryan, J Murphy, E Reddan, J Sexton, S Zebo.
Luke Marshall would have been my choice at 12 for this game, but for another worrying concussion over the weekend. I’d love to see Marty Moore getting a start at tighthead as he looks ready and able. In the back row, Rhys Ruddock can slot directly in for Peter O’Mahony, with the latter resting that hamstring strain.
Jonny Sexton needs a break at out-half, so Paddy Jackson gets the chance to convert an excellent season for Ulster into an international performance. On the bench, Reddan, Sexton and Zebo would hope to provide the ability to lift the tempo in the last 20 minutes.
R Kearney; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, D Kearney; P Jackson, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Moore; D Toner, P O’Connell; R Ruddock, C Henry, J Heaslip.
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Ross, I Henderson, J Murphy, E Reddan, J Sexton, S Zebo.
I’m making three big assumptions in my 23: (a) Peter O’Mahony’s hamstring will keep him out, (b) Andrew Trimble’s knee will make Schmidt look to another wing and (c) Ireland will stubbornly over rule Racing Metro’s ridiculously vague prognosis on Jonathan Sexton’s thumb.
Rhys Ruddock has been close to the squad this whole tournament, so he is the natural fit to replace O’Mahony unless Henderson is slotted in. And thanks to Luke Fitzgerald’s latest setback that man Simon Zebo is the specialist I want on the left wing.
R Kearney, F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, S Zebo, P Jackson, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Moore; D Toner, P O’Connell; R Ruddock, C Henry, J Heaslip.Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Ross, D Ryan, I Henderson, E Reddan, J Sexton, D Kearney.