Rugby Lying in wait – Where do Ireland’s second string stand after a year to forget?

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THE NUMBER OF challenges facing incoming Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has become increasingly clear over the past few weeks and months. Some of these problems run deep and will be long-term projects, but one of the more basic issues will be working out who exactly is deserving of a place in his team.

After a hugely successful reign as Ireland boss, Joe Schmidt’s final year in charge was accompanied of accusations of being too loyal to a core group of his most established first team players.

Whether Farrell believes those players are past their sell by date or not, it is clear that he will need to begin introducing some new faces to the starting XV, or at least making the the squad more competitive.

Despite all the talk of squad depth under Schmidt, the starting XV that took to the field against New Zealand last week would have been easily enough predicted at the start of the year, barring the surprise decision to leave Devin Toner out of the World Cup squad.

Schmidt was accused of not giving enough time on the pitch to those on the fringes of the team, but is that true?

Here,The42takes a look at the opportunities afforded to some of those players outside the first choice XV in 2019, and where they stand heading into Farrell’s regeneration project.

9 appearances in 2019, 5 at World Cup

Beirne’s case is a strange one. He was an exciting addition to the Munster squad after two excellent seasons with Scarlets, but he’s found it difficult to forge a path into the Ireland team. Like Jordan Larmour, Beirne’s versatility is potentially working against him when it comes to international level. He started four games for Ireland in 2019, two in the second-row and two in the back-row, while the majority of his five appearances off the bench saw him play as a lock.

Perhaps Andy Farrell will have a more clearly defined idea of what he wants from Beirne, otherwise he may find himself continuing to plug holes as needed. 

6 appearances in 2019, 3 at World Cup

We can safely assume that Carbery would have clocked up more minutes if not for the ill-timed ankle injury suffered in the World Cup warm-up clash against Italy, but it can also be argued that the time to put Carbery on the field had come and gone. If Ireland were already looking towards the World Cup during the Six Nations, then why did Carbery only get eight minutes in that bruising opening weekend loss to England? The Munster out-half came on in that game to replace Garry Ringrose, with Sexton playing the full 80. He then played 57 minutes against Scotland as Sexton was forced off with an early injury.

He has never started a Six Nations game for Ireland, and didn’t start a game in Japan despite being deemed fit enough to make the squad. Needs to start getting more time on the pitch, as the odd 20 minutes here and there is no good to him at this stage.

10 appearances in 2019, 3 at World Cup

The new kid on the block, even if he is 27. Fully deserving of his inclusion in the Six Nations squad after some excellent performances for Connacht, but looked raw at the World Cup, with flashes of brilliance in attack accompa

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