What The Ireland Team Might Look Like When International Rugby Finally Returns

Shoulder to shoulder.

Rugby and pretty much every sport in the world is currently on pause at the moment with New Zealand set to be the first nation to reintroduce the sport this weekend.

In terms of domestic rugby here in Ireland, we will likely see it return behind closed doors in the coming months but realistically we’re not going to see stadiums full again until the new year at least. So where does that leave international rugby?

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October has been mooted as a possible window to play the rest of the Six Nations but at this stage, we all know that’s probably pipedream – especially considering some of the backlash we’ve seen from stakeholders within the game.

So what about the autumn internationals? Well let’s be honest, do you really expect all the travel restrictions to be lifted by then? Will the likes of the Wallabies and the All Blacks be allowed to travel to the other side of the world for a few Test matches in November? Probably not. So expect something a little closer to home.

There is also the possibility that we might see an extended Six Nations that kicks off in November and runs until the end of the 2021 championship, but would you not just use that November window to finish the 2020 Six Nations?

Either way, even an optimist can see it will probably be November at the earliest before see Ireland return to action on the international stage.

And with that, we’ve had a look at what Ireland’s team might look when they finally get to put that green jersey back on again. Why? Well because we reckon it could look a lot different from the team that lost to England on February 23.

First up, let’s take a look at the team that started that 24-12 defeat at Twickenham.

Ireland team vs England, February 23, 2020

15. Jordan Larmour
14. Andrew Conway
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton (capt)
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rob Herring
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander

Now the first thing we have to factor in is the fact that we rugby finally returns – James Lowe will likely be available for Ireland selection with his residency set to the required reach three years (now five) in the autumn.

The New Zealand-born, Leinster winger has been a complete and utter revelation since arriving from the Chiefs in 2017, scoring 28 tries in just 43 appearances.

He’s a special talent that will likely be thrown straight into the deep end having had a taste of international rugby with the Maori All Blacks, playing four times for them, including their fixture against Munster at Thomond Park.

Elsewhere Ireland have a number of key players who will likely be fit by the time Andy Farrell names his next starting XV – including the likes of Dan Leavy, Tadhg Beirne, Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery.

So where do all these guys fit? For me whether or you agree with the residency rule or not, James Lowe goes straight into any Ireland team.

He has proven time and time again he’s one of the best wingers in the world and on top of that – his style of play is completely unique, meaning he could make a real difference to the Irish backline.

Dan Leavy has been sidelined since April of 2019 following a horrific knee injury picked up in the Champions Cup which resulted in him missing the World Cup. He was arguably Ireland’s best player before the injury and if he can get back to his best will go straight back into the starting XV.

Garry Ringrose meanwhile, looks poised to partner provincial teammate Robbie Henshaw in midfield upon his return. The pair haven’t played a lot of rugby together for Ireland recently and Farrell will want to get what is his likely long-term midfield partnership back up and running as soon as possible.

Joey Carbery meanwhile could very well be fast-tracked into the ten jersey with Sexton realistically not an option for 2023 – but the current captain may hang on until after the 2021 Six Nations at least.

As for Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson’s form has been very questionable in green in his last few matches and we could finally see the Munster man cement a place in Ireland’s starting XV but it might be 2021 before that happens.

Anyway, enough talk. Here’s the XV we reckon could very well take the field the next time Ireland have a game. Whenever that happens.

Potential Ireland 2020/21 XV

15. Jordan Larmour
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton (capt)
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Ronan Kelleher
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. CJ Stander
7. Dan Leavy
8. Caelan Doris