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I would probably make at least one change and put in Larmour for Kearney even for the away match against France. Schmidt has said Larmour was picked ahead of Zebo on form, so why not put his money where his mouth is? If France can pick a 19 year old (Jalibert) and 21 year old (Belleau) at out half, why not Ireland?
But my real shock selection would be Conan instead of Stander. Stander hasn't been making as much ground recently because teams have prepared for his straight line hard running. He is a bit of a one trick pony, even if a very good one. Conan has better footwork and tends to bounce of the first contact and make better yardage as a result. His support running is outstanding and he also offers another line out option.
Other players unfortunate to miss out of first XV selection would be Healy, James Ryan, Leavy and Conway but it's great that we have a strong bench as well. Schmidt is more likely to experiment against Italy so I suspect some reshuffling of the deck at that stage.
Ireland must be strong favourites against France at this stage but we don't have a good track record in Paris. Hopefully Brunel's team won't find their mojo until later in the championship...
Index of Frank's Diaries
Never could there have been a clearer indication of Ireland's growing strength in depth than the dropping of Devin Toner despite the exclusion of Donncha Ryan and Tadhg Beirne from the squad.
Toner has never had a bad game for Ireland, fits unto the game plan, nearly always plays the full 80, and rarely gets injured. He more or less guarantees you good line-out ball, has good hands and contributes around the pitch even if his sheer height limits his ability to make the hard yards.
James Ryan, on the other hand, has played only a handful of matches for either Leinster or Ireland, and has been injured a lot during his short career. It is not in Schmidt's nature to take risks, particularly against France away, so he must rate him very highly indeed.
Let's hope Ryan does well against a very physical French pack. This is going to be some baptism of fire, but at least he has a very experienced pack around him, and the experience of winning in France.
Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger - Jun 15 19 comments
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