Ireland's Six Nations squad is laden with Lions and teeming with outstanding young talent. Ranked three in the world, they have the weaponry to snaffle a Grand Slam
Ireland Six Nations Squad 2018
Leinster’s Jordan Larmour is set to make his Ireland debut after being named on the bench for their Six Nations game against Italy. The back-line that started against France is retained but there are four changes up front with Jack McGrath, Devin Toner, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan coming into the pack. As well as Larmour, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux and Kieran Marmion also come into the match-day 23 for the first time in the 2018 championship.
UPDATED: Ireland Team to play Italy in Six Nations – Saturday 10 February
Kearney; Earls, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Best (capt), Furlong, Henderson, Toner, O’Mahony, Leavy, Conan.
Replacements: Cronin, Healy, Porter, Roux, Stander, Marmion, Carbery, Larmour.
Related: France 13-15 Ireland match report
Ireland Team to play France in Six Nations – Saturday 3 February
Kearney; Earls, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (capt), Furlong; Henderson, James Ryan; O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Stander.
Replacements: Cronin, J McGrath, John Ryan, Toner, Leavy, L McGrath, Carbery, McFadden.
Ireland will be looking to get off to the best possible start to the championship – check out the Ireland Six Nations Fixtures.
Related: Six Nations TV Coverage
Jordan Larmour is the only uncapped player in Ireland’s 37-man Six Nations squad – but what a player to bring in. The 20-year-old full-back probably earned his call in the few seconds it took him to score a sensational try at Munster on Boxing Day.
Larmour caught a high ball well inside his half, evaded centres Sam Arnold and Rory Scannell with great footwork, stepped past Ian Keatley and flashed to the try-line. His score underlines why all is lush in the Irish garden, even if Ulster failed to join Leinster and Munster in the Champions Cup quarter-finals.
Joe Schmidt’s squad features a healthy blend of seasoned international class and bright young talent. Six of the nine 2017 Irish Lions chosen are in the pack, including a whole front row and Peter O’Mahony, the tourists’ captain for last year’s opening Test in New Zealand.
Back-row Sean O’Brien (hip) and centre Garry Ringrose (ankle) are major absentees, at least for the opening rounds. But Ireland have powerful options in those positions, with Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell making a good fist of their new midfield partnership in the autumn defeat of Argentina.
Joey Carbery is back after breaking his wrist against Fiji in November, and as expected there is no room for Racing lock Donnacha Ryan, playing exceptional rugby at the moment, or his future team-mate Simon Zebo as Ireland prioritise home-based players.
Of the younger brigade, Ulster wing Jason Stockdale and Leinster lock James Ryan in particular can expect to play huge roles for a team that has slipped up uncharacteristically in the past two championships.
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Winners in 2014 and 2015, Ireland are the only side to date to beat Eddie Jones’s England but they lost in Scotland and Wales last year and have plenty to prove.
Ranked third in the world, the feeling persists that they are more reliant on half-backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton than they would wish; it’s no crime to have such world-class operators steering the ship, but Schmidt will need to give generous game time to others as he looks to build Test experience across his squad ahead of Japan 2019.
The schedule looks like being Ireland’s friend. A trip to unpredictable France is followed by three successive matches at the Aviva Stadium, where, excluding a World Cup warm-up, they haven’t lost to a fellow European team for five years.
By the time they visit Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day, Ireland will hope to be playing for a Grand Slam and right now you’d get pretty short odds from bookmakers that such an eventuality will happen on 17 March.
Since the squad was named, Munster prop James Cronin has been added following a knee injury to team-mate Dave Kilcoyne.
Ireland Six Nations Squad (first two rounds)
Bundee Aki (Connacht, 2 caps)
Joey Carbery (Leinster, 6 caps)
Andrew Conway (Munster, 6 caps)
Keith Earls (Munster, 62 caps)
Chris Farrell (Munster, 2 caps)
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster, 31 caps)
Rob Kearney (Leinster, 78 caps)
Ian Keatley (Munster, 7 caps)
Jordan Larmour (Leinster, uncapped)
Kieran Marmion (Connacht, 18 caps)
Fergus McFadden (Leinster, 32 caps)
Luke McGrath (Leinster, 6 caps)
Conor Murray (Munster, 59 caps)
Johnny Sexton (Leinster, 68 caps)
Rory Scannell (Munster, 3 caps)
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster, 4 caps)
Rory Best (Ulster, captain, 106 caps)
Jack Conan (Leinster, 5 caps)
James Cronin (Munster, 3 caps) *
Sean Cronin (Leinster, 56 caps)
Ultan Dillane (Connacht, 11 caps)
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster, 19 caps)
Cian Healy (Leinster, 73 caps)
Iain Henderson (Ulster, 34 caps)
Rob Herring (Ulster, 3 caps)
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster, 22 caps)
Dan Leavy (Leinster, 4 caps)
Jack McGrath (Leinster, 42 caps)
Jordi Murphy (Leinster, 18 caps)
Peter O’Mahony (Munster, 42 caps)
Andrew Porter (Leinster, 3 caps)
Quinn Roux (Connacht, 3 caps)
James Ryan (Leinster, 4 caps)
John Ryan (Munster, 11 caps)
CJ Stander (Munster, 18 caps)
Devin Toner (Leinster, 53 caps)
Josh van der Flier (Leinster, 9 caps)
* Added to squad because of injury
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