Picking An Ireland XV To Take On Scotland In The Opening Round Of The Six Nations
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The Six Nations is less than three weeks away.
The premiere northern hemisphere tournament kicks-off on the 4th of February, with Ireland and Scotland set to kick start proceedings in the 14.25 kick-off. Excitement is already building, and with a new bonus-point system in place, it’s set to be the most exciting Six Nations yet.
Lions places are also at stake this year, making the 2017 Six Nations, a must see for all involved. Joe Schmidt’s Ireland head into the tournament on the back of a hugely successful November series and with the provinces firing in Europe, look like real contenders for the crown.
This year competition for places are at an all-time peak. Injury wise, Joe Schmidt has been relatively lucky, with Jared Payne and Sean Cronin his only casualties as things stand. As a result, the Kiwi will have to make some tough decisions.
Here’s the starting XV we think he should go with for the Scotland game.
1. Jack McGrath
McGrath will be hoping to pick up where he left off in November. Currently the leading contender for the Lions test loosehead jersey and will be hoping that’s still the case at the conclusion of the Six Nations.
2. Rory Best (C)
The captain’s province has been struggling, but played some of his best rugby for Ireland during the November series. Best is now the frontrunner for the Lions captaincy and a Six Nations title will do no harm in helping him realise that.
3. Tadhg Furlong
One of Ireland’s standout players in November, Furlong has brought that form back to his province. One of the hottest prospects in northern hemisphere rugby right now, Furlong will be out to prove he’s here to stay and worthy of a spot on the plane to New Zealand.
4. Devin Toner
One of Ireland’s most underrated players, his lineout skills will be key against the Scots.
5. Donnacha Ryan
Ryan is currently playing the best rugby of his career and with Dillane only due back from injury just before this game, and Henderson being deployed at six for Ulster, the Munster man has to get the nod.
6. CJ Stander
Peter O’Mahony is back to his best, but CJ Stander is the in form back-row in the country right now. The South African born star will be disappointed his first Six Nations was a poor one for Ireland and will be out to rectify it.
7. Josh van der Flier
Sean O’Brien is back on the sidelines again, this time with a minor calf injury. His welfare needs to be managed, and when you have someone of van der Flier’s talent waiting in the wings, the decision is made for you.
8. Jamie Heaslip
Words cannot describe how valuable Heaslip was to Ireland in November. Currently playing some of his best rugby in years, Heaslip will once again play a huge role in an Ireland campaign.
9. Conor Murray
The world’s best nine right now, Murray is probably Ireland’s most important player. Keeping this man fit is Joe Schmidt’s number one priority. Should his head injury worries not clear up, he may be rested for this game.
10. Johnny Sexton
Sexton seems to have gotten through the last couple of weeks with Leinster without any problems. His head injury against Montpellier had a few people worried, but Leinster have made it clear he is fit and ready to go.
11. Keith Earls
Lost his place to his Munster teammate Simon Zebo in November, but has really started to hit form for his province in recent weeks. Zebo deserves the fullback jersey for Ireland right now and the two have a great working relationship.
12. Robbie Henshaw
Another man who is leading the way for a Lions test spot. Unlucky to miss the end of the November series due to the concussion he sustained at the hands of Sam Cane. Henshaw has been playing some great rugby for Leinster in the last couple of weeks. This year’s Six Nations could be the year we see Henshaw elevate his game to another level.
13. Garry Ringrose
The young star will get his chance in the starting XV in t Payne’s absence, and you can be damn sure he’s going to take it. Another player we reckon is going to raise his game to the next level at this year’s Six Nations.
14. Andrew Trimble
Trimble got his chance back in an Ireland jersey in November and took it with both hands. There’s a lot of competition for the two wing spots on the Ireland team at the moment, but Trimble has done enough to retain his spot on the right wing in our eyes.
15. Simon Zebo
The mercurial finisher is playing the best rugby of his career right now. At fullback he offers that x-factor that no other player can bring. Zebo has worked really hard on his game and improved his defence, kicking and ability under the high ball.