Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
The bash brothers are back
They have no biological connection but when Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien are both on the field, their bulldozing ball carrying gives Ireland and Leinster a phenomenal one-two punch. Jack McGrath and Rhys Ruddock deputised well for the duo in the autumn but there is no denying the extra quality that Healy and O’Brien bring to Joe Schmidt’s squad.
Leinster were targeting the Dragons game on February 15th to reintroduce the duo but it will be interesting to see whether they are used by Schmidt in the Wolfhounds game against England next Friday night. With Chris Ashton and Slammin’ Sam scheduled to be in Cork, the game could be a real cracker.
Iain Henderson is other dynamic forward that Schmidt was able to call upon and like Healy and O’Brien, the faster Ireland can get him back involved, the better.
Familiar faces return to the back division
Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
After long absences from the national team, Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls were both included in Schmidt’s extended squad too. After some exciting performances at 13 for Leinster in the last two months, a 12/13 partnership of Henshaw/Fitzgerald is piquing the interest of many Irish rugby fans.
Earls has only gotten two cameos off the bench for Munster since returning from a knee injury so he is likely to only feature for the Wolfhounds. But if he gets a start in the Champions Cup dead-rubber against Sale this weekend, it will give the utility back a good window to prove his worth to the national coach ahead of next month’s 6 Nations.
Ross hangs on
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
A few obituaries were written for Mike Ross last week after he was omitted from Leinster’s matchday squad to face Castres in favour of Marty Moore and Tadhg Furlong. However, Joe Schmidt has stuck with the veteran prop and Furlong will have to wait a little longer before dislodging the wily tighthead from the national set-up.
The Leinster scrum has improved a great deal since Moore has returned and it will be interesting to see if Schmidt rewards him with a start against Italy, or if he is returned to the spot on the bench he occupied in last season’s championship-winning campaign.