5 Talking Points As Ireland Team Named For Six Nations Showdown With England

Showdown.

Head coach Joe Schmidt today named his Ireland team as they get set to open up the defence of their Six Nations title with a visit of old rivals England to Dublin on Saturday.

With almost a full compliment of players to choose from, the Ireland boss had some tough decisions to make with some big names unlucky to miss out on selection.

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Here are five talking points.

Robbie Henshaw at 15.
We’ll start with the big one. Robbie Henshaw getting the nod at fifteen. A big call considering he has never played there for Ireland, but at the same time there’s always method to Schmidt’s madness. Rob Kearney is not quite 100% yet and Henshaw has played plenty of rugby at fifteen in the past. He’s also a quality operator and a British and Irish Lions that’s capable of slotting in pretty much anywhere. Maybe Schmidt will throw him in at seven next?

Quinn Roux over Ultan Dillane.
The South African-born second-row wasn’t even named in Schmidt’s original squad, but injuries to Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson earned him a late call-up. And now he finds himself on the bench against England, with Ultan Dillane once again unlucky to miss out despite being in good form recently. Roux has long been a favourite to fall back on for Schmidt, who appreciates his scrummaging ability. Tough on on Dillane all the same.

Dave Kilcoyne makes the bench.
Another surprising call here with the Munster loosehead getting the nod over British and Irish Lion Jack McGrath. But to be fair to Kilcoyne, he’s been in excellent form this season and is a real explosive option off the bench with his ball-carrying. McGrath meanwhile has struggled for game time and fitness, so it’s probably the right call.

Jordan Larmour gets the coveted 23rd spot.
Joe Schmidt has never had such wealth in terms of picking his 23rd man. The likes of Rob Kearney, Andrew Conway, Will Addison and Chris Farrell all miss out with Larmour getting the nod due to his versatility according to Schmidt. His electric footwork could cause serious damage against tired English legs late in the game on Saturday.

Van der Flier over O’Brien.
As expected Josh van der Flier continues at openside flanker after his terrific performance against the All Blacks. Sean O’Brien is world class, there’s no doubting that. But the Tullow man is still working his way back to full fitness and is a serious option for Schmidt to spring from the bench. Until he’s called up, VDF will tackle anything that moves.