Andy Farrell has opted largely for consistency after naming only two uncapped players in his Ireland squad for the 2022 Six Nations.
Connacht winger Mack Hansen and Ulster full-back Michael Lowry are each in store for their first senior Ireland minutes following some sensational form for their clubs so far this season.
Galway-based winger Hansen will covet special attention entering the tournament, however, with the Australia-born speedster hoping to carry some prolific club form onto the international stage.
The 23-year-old—whose mother hails from Cork—was called up late to the November squad but failed to make his debut, though the United Rugby Championship's current top try-scorer will hope that soon changes.
Veteran fly-half Johnny Sexton will captain the team after overcoming a knee injury, which kept him sidelined for two months following the November series.
There's pressure on the 36-year-old to keep performing at a high level, with Munster's Joey Carbery named among the alternative despite an elbow injury keeping him out of action since December.
Connacht playmaker Jack Carty has been recalled and may get another to impress at Test level, though there's no question Sexton remains the go-to fly-half choice ahead of what could be his last Six Nations.
It's no surprise Leinster continue to dominate the national team selection, with no fewer than 16 of their players making up Farrell's squad.
The pack options in particular looks set to be heavily influenced by those based in Dublin, with 10 of the 20 forwards named in the squad currently playing for Leinster.
Where do you think Ireland will finish in the 2022 Six Nations? Let us know in the comments section.
Munster come closest to challenging that number with nine representatives, although Ulster aren't far off with eight of their own, while Connacht will contribute only four players as it stands.
Forward prospect Cian Prendergast will travel with the rest of the squad as a development player, falling just short in his hopes of making the official squad.
The New Zealand-born duo of Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki keep their places and each face a strong chance of starting in the tournament opener at home to Wales on February 5.
Fans will spot the absence of another Kiwi-born talent in winger James Lowe, however, who wasn't named after a muscular injury that will keep him sidelined for "a number of weeks."
“In November we challenged the group to get up to speed quickly so that the team could perform at international level," said Farrell upon announcing his Six Nations squad.
"The same will apply for this Six Nations campaign, we need to be at our best against Wales on the opening weekend.
“We have a strong squad with competition for places across the board, there is a nice blend of experienced internationals and guys who have had their first taste of this level in the past 12 months. The games in November gave us a good foundation to build on and areas where we know we will have to improve."
Ireland will alternate between home and away fixtures during this year's competition as they host Italy (Feb. 27) and Scotland (March 19), though they face tough Tests away to France (Feb. 12) and England (March 12).
Farrell has led the team to successive third-place finishes at the Six Nations since succeeding Joe Schmidt in late 2019.
Ireland took the bronze last year despite losing their opening fixture against eventual champions Wales and France, going on to collect three consecutive wins over Italy, Scotland and England.
The team more recently completed a hugely successful autumn campaign that comprised wins over New Zealand —their third in five meetings with the All Blacks—as well as Argentina and Japan.
Only France (three) and Wales (four) have accumulated more than Ireland's two Grand Slams during the Six Nations era, the most recent of which was in 2018 when they last lifted the title.
Ireland squad for 2022 Six Nations
Forwards (20): Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Peter O’Mahony, Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Nick Timoney, Kieran Treadwell, Josh van der Flier
Backs (17): Bundee Aki, Robert Baloucoune, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Craig Casey, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Jamison Gibson-Park, Mack Hansen, Robbie Henshaw, James Hume, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, Michael Lowry, Conor Murray, Garry Ringrose, Johnny Sexton
Source: Read Full Article