Hugo Kennan is a doubt to feature in the Wales clash this weekend as Ireland continue their march towards the Grand Slam

Hugo Keenan has been an ever-present in the Irish back line since making his debut in the 2020 Six Nations as a winger against Italy. However, the Leinster man has cemented his importance to Ireland at full-back, with the 27-year-old seemingly irreplaceable since grabbing the 15 jersey against Wales in February 2021.

Keenan sustained a heavy blow to his left knee during Ireland’s comprehensive 36-0 victory over Italy in the second round of this year’s Six Nations. Assistant Paul O’Connell confirmed that he has not been ruled out for the visit of Wales to the Aviva this weekend, but the situation will be monitored.

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Only two other players have been used at full-back since Keenan’s first start in the position at the end of 2020: Jimmy O’Brien in the warm-up games to the 2023 World Cup and Michael Lowry against Italy in the 2022 Six Nations. However, with O’Brien injured and Lowry not in the squad, who could start for Ireland v Wales on Saturday?

Ciarán Frawley

The Swiss army knife within the Ireland and Leinster squads, Ciarán Frawley can play a handful of positions at the top level, including full-back, centre, and fly-half. Due to the level of fly-halves available at Leinster since his debut for the four-time European Champion Cup winners, Frawley has honed his craft across the backline, including No 15.

Frawley has never had a consistent run at full-back for his club due to the supreme ability and consistency of Keenan, but the Australia-born back has proved his adept ability to play there.

Yet, it is unlikely that Farrell will select the 26-year-old to start here against Wales. Frawley’s lack of pace may be an issue in this position, while the strength of having a top-quality option off the bench to replace world-class talent will be enticing for the Irish coaches in this fixture.

Jordan Larmour

Much was said about the bright future for this Leinster man when he burst onto the scene in 2017, but Jordan Larmour has failed to reach the heights that were expected of him. The winger has still had a glittering career, particularly at club level, but at international level, he has failed to shine.

Keenan’s injury may be the perfect opportunity to reintroduce himself on the biggest stage. Larmour is one of only five players to play full-back under Farrell. The 26-year-old may not have the skill set that Farrell desires at full-back in terms of his ability off the boot or under the high ball, but his positional awareness and pace make him a contender to start against Wales.

Larmour may not be the favourite to start at full-back, and it may arise that he is selected at wing with Calvin Nash moving to 15 to accommodate him, but the livewire would be an excellent option to cause havoc against Warren Gatland’s men this weekend.

Jacob Stockdale

The 2018 Six Nations Player of the Championship is another option to replace Keenan at full-back. Jacob Stockdale has failed to kick on for Ireland since Farrell took over from Joe Schmidt as head coach. The Ulster winger was quickly replaced on the wing by James Lowe when he became Irish-qualified and then by Keenan at full-back.

Despite Stockdale’s form falling off a cliff for Ireland and becoming more error-prone for Ulster, Farrell likes the 27-year-old with the constant call-ups and odd starts when backs are injured.

Stockdale was the first-choice full-back before Keenan stripped him of that honour, so the Ulsterman may be in line to be given the nod this weekend.

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