Monday 3 February 2014

Provincial Players to Watch During the 6 Nations

With the excitement of the 6 Nations after just kicking off, the provinces are due for some stretching in the next few weeks. With 4 Pro 12 games coming up while players are on international duty, and the interprovicial A games due too, there is a chance for some fringe players to stake a claim for a starting spot come the business end of the season. Here are the players from Munster, Leinster and Ulster who can do just that.

Andrew Conway

With Felix Jones still with the Ireland squad and Keith Earls out injured, Conway could be one of the beneficiaries. If he performs well or anywhere near the potential he showed at schools level, he has every chance of hanging onto a back three spot, or a bench place at worst. 

Rory Scholes

He's had a torrid time with injuries since he starred at the JWC, but it looks like Scholes might be back soon. Gilroy and Bowe may feature for Ulster as they battle back from injury, but once they graduate, their absence and Trimble's, means there will be a spots open alongside Michael Allen, and Scholes is the brightest prospect to fill them.

Chris Farrell

Like Scholes, Farrell has had a dreadful time with injuries in the last few seasons. Darren Cave and Luke Marshall are absent from the Ulster squad at the moment, so Ulster could do with Farrell overcoming his injuries and lacing up against the Ospreys, Scarlets, Treviso and Dragons.

James McKinney

Despite Paddy Jackson being the only outhalf ahead of him, McKinney finds himself left out of 23s due to Ruan Pienaar's versatility on a regular basis. He displayed the calmness needed at Under 20 level, showing glimpses this season that he's pushed on too. These four games will be huge for his development, and playing with Pienaar will help.

Luke McGrath

I mention McGrath everytime I do a post like this, but with Isaac Boss and Eoin Reddan still with Ireland, Leinster are having a glimpse into the not too distant future with McGrath and Cooney battling for starts.

Jack O'Connell

With both props ahead of him with Ireland, O'Connell has a chance to either displace McGrath on the bench, or to put himself in the shop window for other teams. If he continues his improvement, he will show in these games that he is too good to be 3rd choice for any rugby team.

Niall Annett

Like McGrath, Annett is a regular in these posts. This time though, Rob Herring is on the cusp of the Ireland squad, and won't be fully featuring in Ulster training midweek. Annett could seize this opportunity and have grasped the back up slot to Rory Best by the time they come back.

Tadhg Furlong

With Leinster the only province to supply tighthead props to the national set up, it is they who will have to give an opportunity to the next in line. Tadhg Furlong is that man, and he has been whispered as another solution to the easing tighthead crisis. An extended run in the team will show that for sure, with Zebre, Dragons, Cardiff and Glasgow likely to test him.

Quinn Roux

The arrival of McCarthy and the quick ascension from Toner has left the former Springbok prodigy with limited opportunities. If he wants to start turning things around, he'll have to start in this window, when he is likely to be given a chance. He has the most potential of all the remaining lock, and is one player I'm looking forward to the most.

Paddy Butler

Tommy O'Donnell and Peter O'Mahony's absence means that the backlog of Munster backrows will have eased. With CJ Stander permanently on the A side, this means that Butler could have a chance while O'Mahony is away. A very similar player to O'Mahony, he will be looking to make sure that Munster barely notice that their captain is gone.

Sean Doyle

Doyle prospered during Chris Henry's recent injury, and with Henry again unavailable to Ulster, Doyle could get another shot at the openside flank. The 24 year old Australian who will be Irish qualified in two years, will not want to give his jersey up as easily as Henry got it on his return.

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