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Schmidt Produces Some Surprises For November Series

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A week earlier than expected, Joe Schmidt has announced his 37 man squad for the upcoming November Internationals and though influenced by injury, some surprise calls have reared their heads.

As seems to always be the case in Ireland, out half is the area causing the most debate. The chosen three are Jonathan Sexton, Ian Keatley and Ian Madigan. Paddy Jackson has been the go to second to Sexton for nearly two years now, and his omission may come as a surprise to many. But Keatley has been getting to the required level slowly but surely and with performances like last weekend against Sale under his belt deserves his call up. Jackson does also have a little time to go to return fully from injury and Madigan just provides better all round cover given how many Irish backs are sat up with injury. Ulster fans won’t be happy, but much like Sexton being released back to Leinster during the 2012 Six Nations, Jackson is not to be considered out of the golden circle just because he is being left with Ulster for game time.

The rest of the backs are a little more straightforward, again thanks to the injury list, but you can’t help but be excited at said injuries giving Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo another shot. After out half, the new look centre pairing for Ireland will be heavily scrutinised. One would think Gordon D’Arcy will remain in the starting team, at 12 or 13, and one of Robbie Henshaw or Jared Payne will slot in beside, Stuart Olding likely to be a tackle bag holder unless Schmidt dares to rotate an entirely new two at centre for Georgia. Credit too for Kieran Marmion being rewarded for some excellent form thus far, with Isaac Boss ousted in favour of the Connacht flyer.

In the pack, it’s all a little more injury dictated. Call ups for Rodney Ah You, Nathan White and Dave Foley are well deserved but Foley is unlikely to overtake Mike McCarthy on the bench. White and Ah You could benefit from the loss of Cian Healy, Martin Moore, Tadgh Furlong and the omission of Declan Fitzpatrick. Ireland look a lot better in the front row these days by comparison to two years ago but the more props blooded the better. In the back row one would think Rhys Ruddock’s form makes him the shoe in at blindside, with Peter O’Mahony’s experience and lead by example attitude making him best suited to fill O’Brien’s shoes at openside. Jamie Heaslip is the only true Number 8 in the squad, and an obvious choice if fit.

In all, we would have preferred to see a “1 year on” measure of how Schmidt rates the Irish players but as it is we can’t take every selection as a decision on form. Still, any Schmidt selection can be cause for excitement and with Georgia and now Australia prime for the taking some fresh faces could make overdue appearances. Always a good thing a year out from a World Cup.

Image courtesy of theguardian.com

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