|Gilroy was the star of 2012's end of year Tests Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE|
Munster and Connacht however will, or should, be even more frustrated. Both teams should have recorded bonus point wins, and both teams, while not playing good enough had many chances. Connacht especially inexplicably chose to take the points from 19-6, all the way to 25-6. If they are to earn the respect of Sunday Times "journalists", they should show that they have the ambition to get out of the group by getting bonus point victories against teams like Zebre. What was more frustrating was on the two occasions that they did go for the corner, tries were scored off first phase.
Anyway, there has been enough promise from Irish players that Joe Schmidt has a few interesting calls to make for his first squad;
At loosehead, I don't think Ireland have ever had as many quality options as before. Cian Healy is a certainty, while James Cronin and Jack McGrath have been impressive with their early season form. I missed the Ulster game at the weekend, but from all accounts, "Angry" Tom Court certainly put his hand up. Dave Kilcoyne is the current understudy to Healy, but I don't think he's started the season in good enough form.
Richardt Strauss's unfortunate health problems weakens Irish options, with presumably three hookers to be included, the big choice will be between Mike Sherry and Damien Varley. Ordinarily, I'm a Sherry fan, and I think that Varley concedes far too many penalties. In the last two weeks, Sherry's throwing has been very poor, while Varley has made positive impacts and performed better. Varley would be the form call.
|Martin Moore looks set to ease Ireland's tighthead crisis ©INPHO/James Crombie|
It will be fantastic to have Paul O'Connell back in the Irish fold, and Donnacha Ryan and Mike McCarthy will also be included. Devin Toner has arguably been the best performing Leinster second row, and Schmidt may make a familiar call here. I've been impressed whenever I see Dan Tuohy, and I'd include him in any squad.
The starting backrow will be Peter O'Mahony, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien, with Chris Henry supporting from the bench. Iain Henderson will be in the squad. Schmidt seemed to be a fan of Kevin McLaughlin when in charge of Leinster, and I think Sean Dougall's performance yesterday means he would be worth calling him up to look at in training. Robin Copeland's man of the match performance in Cardiff's shock defeat of Toulon could put him in the reckoning.
|Conor Murray's Lions adventure has improved him as a player. Source: Limerick Leader|
Jonny Sexton has been one of the few Racing players that have played well, and that won't have gone unnoticed by Schmidt. Madigan's end of year form will be enough for him to stay as number 2, while Paddy Jackson has put the first few weeks of this yer behind him and put in some impressive displays. A mention for Gareth Steenson who is still producing for Exeter, and Ian Keatley is improving in Munster.
Dave McSharry's injury problems have come at the wrong time, as there is now at least 3 players ahead of him, with Luke Marshall and Stuart Olding fighting for probably one place beside Gordon D'Arcy.
If Brian O'Driscoll is fit, he starts. Everyone in rugby should know that. Robbie Henshaw's recent move to outside centre means he'll be next in line, and will also cover fullback, leaving Rob Kearney as the likely only 15 in the squad. Niall Morris is an outside bet.
Wing is the most interesting position. Tommy Bowe is the only certainty after Zebo's injury. Gilroy's absence recently probably rules him out, and both Andrew Trimble and Mike Allen have impressed in Ulster, Fergus McFadden is likely, while Luke Fitzgerald looked very bright when coming on against Castres. Munster fans will tell you Earls and Johne Murphy have been in great form. Pick 4 from those names and I guarantee you they'd be different from mine.
Healy, Kilcoyne, McGrath
Best, Cronin, Sherry
Ross, Fitzpatrick, Moore
O'Connell, Ryan, McCarthy, Toner
Henderson, O'Mahony, O'Brien, Henry, Heaslip
Murray, Boss, Reddan,
Sexton, Madigan, Jackson
Bowe, Earls, McFadden, Fitgerald
Healy, Cronin, McGrath.
Best, Cronin, Varley,
Ross, Fitzpatrick, Moore
O'Connell, Ryan, Tuohy, Toner, Henderson
O'Mahony, Henry, O'Brien, Heaslip, Dougall
Murray, Boss, Marmion
Bowe, Trimble, Fitzgerald,