5 Talking Points As Joe Schmidt Names Ireland Squad For The Six Nations

The defence.

Joe Schmidt and his coaching ticket yesterday named a 38-man strong Ireland squad for the opening two rounds of their Six Nations defence against England and Scotland next month, springing a few surprises in the process.

There’s no room for Ross Byrne with Connacht’s Jack Carty earning a surprise call-up, while Dan Leavy has also been left out, with Schmidt citing the flanker’s fitness. Tom Farrell has also got the nod, despite all four of Ireland’s frontline centres being fit and included in the squad.

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Here are five of the biggest talking points.

Tom Farrell is in.
The Connacht centre has been a revelation since arriving in the west of Ireland last season, with Schmidt rewarding his excellent form. He likely won’t get a chance to play in the opening rounds, such is the competition in the centres right now. But the call-up will do him the world of good and we could see him potentially make his debut in the fixture against Italy in Round 3.

Carty over Byrne.
A surprise call here, especially considering just how good Byrne was against Toulouse last weekend in Sexton’s absence. But Jack Carty has been in the form of his life this season, and Schmidt seems to have picked this squad based on form more than anything else. Once again he will likely have to wait until the Italy game to get his chance, but being inside the Ireland camp will do him the world of good.

No Dan Leavy.
The Leinster back-row has struggled for fitness this season, but the same can be said for fellow openside Sean O’Brien, who has been included. Leavy was arguably Ireland’s best player during the Grand Slam-winning campaign last year, but we trust Schmidt knows best. If he doesn’t think you can hit your markers, then chances are you’re not getting selected. Hopefully he can get his match fitness up to scratch for the latter rounds, but Ireland don’t exactly have bad replacements in Josh van der Flier and O’Brien.

Caolin Blade gets his chance.
The Connacht scrumhalf has taken his chance at a provincial level this season in the absence of Kieran Marmion, but can he do it at international level? With doubts still hanging over John Cooney’s fitness, he could very well find himself thrust straight into the action against England with a spot on the bench. A huge opportunity for him should it arise.

The centre dilemma.
For the first time it looks like Schmidt will have all of his midfield options available for the opener against England, touch wood. And what an embarrassment of riches. The Ireland boss has six very able centres to choose from in Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell, Will Addison and Tom Farrell. But six does not go into two unfortunately. Brian O’Driscoll is Ireland’s greatest ever centre without question, and he reckons whatever the partnership is, you’d be “a dangerous man” to drop Bundee Aki, and we tend to agree. But if that’s the case who do you start alongside him? We’ll leave that up to the messiah.