5 Talking Points As Ireland Squad Named For Autumn Series
Out with the old, in with the new (kind of).
Simon Zebo’s international exile has come sooner than expected, with the Munster star dropped from Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad just days after it was revealed he will be plying his trade in France next season.
The main benefactor from his exile appears to be Munster teammate Darren Sweetnam, who is among four uncapped players along with Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell and Adam Byrne.
Here are five talking points following the announcement.
Zebo’s instant exile
We knew Simon Zebo wouldn’t be part of Joe Schmidt’s plans once he left Munster, but should he have been exiled straight away? There’s arguments for either case, but for November it’s probably the right decision. Darren Sweetnam and Adam Byrne will benefit greatly, as will Joey Carbery. Schmidt knows what Zebo can do and can always bring him back in for next year’s Six Nations and one last run in the green jersey. Right now it’s the right decision if you ask us.
Bundee Aki is officially an Irishman
Whether or not you agree with the residency rule (which is soon to be changed to 5 years), you cannot deny Bundee Aki’s ability. With no Garry Ringrose next month, and Jared Payne struggling with concussion issues, Schmidt could not overlook a player of Aki’s ability. Test match rugby is a massive step-up, but Aki is a special player. Expect to see him start at least one of the three games.
McCloskey is back.
Stuart McCloskey’s inclusion will delight most Irish fans. The powerful Ulster centre has been in excellent form for Ulster this season and deserves another shot in green. He only has one cap to his name as things stand, but expect him to add to this next month. A partnership of McCloskey at 12 with Henshaw outside him at 13 could be very interesting.
The Kearney brothers?
Not quite sure what to make of this. Both players have very little rugby under their belts this season, and continue to struggle with injury, Rob in particular. In all honesty neither of them should have been considered. Tiernan O’Halloran should be in the squad ahead of Rob, while a number of wingers could have been given Dave’s spot.
Keatley gets the nod.
Ian Keatley has been rewarded for his fine form with Munster this season with a recall. With no Paddy Jackson, Keatley has a chance to nail down being Sexton’s understudy going forward. He’ll definitely be given at least one start, likely against Fiji. Huge opportunity for him.
Ireland face the Springboks at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 11 November, before games against Fiji (18 November) and Argentina (25 November).