Friday 1 November 2013

Players to watch this November: Irish Provinces

Despite the excitement of the upcoming internationals, there are still some Rabo Pro 12 games this month. Here are some players that are worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks.

1. Dave McSharry

I know technically because Connacht only have one player in the Irish squad not much has changed, except now, they are entitled to feel like they can pick up points. Plus, Dave McSharry is back after a long time out with injury that ruined his chances of making the summer tour. Hopefully back with a vengenance, Connacht have missed McSharry's hard running from the inside centre, and need the go forward momentum that he generates.

2. Darragh Leader

If you haven't seen it already then watch Leader's massive 60m kick to win the game for the Connacht second string. Leader has progressed very well from the Under 20s last summer, and the young three-quarters gets an opportunity at outside centre now that Robbie Henshaw has been summoned by Joe Schmidt. A big test for him, if it goes well then Henshaw might not get his jersey when November ends.

3. Dave Kilcoyne

The first player in here that needs a big November to prove to Joe Schmidt and newly found doubters that last season wasn't a fluke. Kilcoyne has struggled this year, whether due to the new scrum laws or a case of second season syndrome, but maybe having the chance to perform without the intense spotlight during November will help him get back to basics.

4. Ian Nagle

Ian Nagle is in need of a big November more than most. Long pronounced as another Munster warrior that would take up the helm from Paul O'Connell, it's been 5 years since and Nagle has found it difficult to break the first team. His contract is up at the end of the year, and he needs to force his way into the reckoning to get a chance to prove he hasn't wasted his talent.

5. Ronan O'Mahony

There are a few good young backs for Munster coming through, and with injuries and Keith Earls's call up, O'Mahony has a chance to earn some brownie points and try to cement his place in the 23 before van den Heever arrives. A quality finisher who gets lots of tries, Munster need his scoring ability.

6. Luke McGrath

Luke McGrath setting up a try on his debut v Ospreys. Photo: sportsnewsireland
Admitedly, one of my "favourites". With both Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss away on Irish duty, and both of them coming to the end of their careers, here is a big opportunity for McGrath to showcase his talent in an attempt to finish this season with some valuable experience. McGrath will be looking to add to his impressive preseason but he'll have stiff competition from John Cooney, but McGrath is one of the players that I'm most excited to see this November.

7. Jack O'Connell

Leinster have started to produce a number of quality looseheads in recent years, and if rumours are to be believed, Jack O'Connell is set to follow in Cian Healy and Jack McGrath's footsteps sooner rather than later. Ironically it's the call up of Healy and McGrath that gives O'Connell his chance, and he'll be looking to make the most of it starting tonight from the bench against the Dragons.

8. James McKinney

A potential challenger to Paddy Jackson's monopoly of the Ulster 10 jersey, I think McKinney has what it takes. Recently returned from a stint in the championship, McKinney's game management is excellent, and his goalkicking is very impressive. After some impressive performances this November, Jackson will be looking over his shoulder nervously.

9. Chris Farrell

As mentioned in a previous article, Chris Farrell is one of the most highly thought of, of the current emerging young backs in Ulster. With Luke Marshall in Irish camp, Farrell should get some great experience and go on to challenge Marshall and Olding for a centre spot in the near future.

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