5 Talking Points As Ireland Team Named For Six Nations Opener With France

2 days to go.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has named his Ireland team for their Six Nations opener with France in Paris this weekend.

Cian Healy gets the nod at loosehead ahead of Leinster teammate Jack McGrath who starts on the bench. The other big call sees James Ryan start in the second-row alongside Ulster’s Iain Henderson.

Josh van der Flier has been handed the tough task of filling Sean O’Brien’s boots, but can take confidence in the fact that he’ll be joined by two Lions in the back-row, with Peter O’Mahony at six and CJ Stander at eight.

The backline is as expected with Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale on the wings, Aki and Henshaw in the centre and Murray and Sexton at halfback. Rob Kearney gets the nod at fifteen, with Fergus McFadden on the bench.

Here are five talking points.

Healy over McGrath.
The pair have been going tit for tat all season, but it appears McGrath is still playing catch-up after returning from the Lions tour out of form. Schmidt says Healy’s November performances helped him edge it. Should be an interesting few weeks with both set to trade places.

Tried and tested.
Andrew Conway has been ruled out this weekend with an “inflamed knee” and will likely miss the Italy game also. As a result Schmidt has gone with McFadden on the bench. The Ireland boss could have used this opportunity to bring young Larmour in, but instead he’s gone with his tried and tested. We do however, expect Larmour to at least make the bench for the Italy game.

Ryan over Toner.
Big call here. James Ryan comes in for his first Six Nations game and he starts. Devin Toner has been a favourite under Schmidt, but it’s becoming clear now just how much he rates Ryan. Huge opportunity for the youngster.

Carbery goes straight back in.
Ian Keatley has been playing some of the best rugby of his career, but Schmidt once again goes with Carbery who’s only just recovered from injury. His versatility probably played a factor, and Schmidt must have seen enough from him in training to stick him on the bench so soon.

Luke McGrath cements his spot.
The Leinster scrumhalf is now the number one scrumhalf behind Conor Murray by some distance. He’s been excellent for Leinster this season and deserves his spot. An excellent option on the bench, that can close a game out if Murray comes off.

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