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RUGBY OPINION Andy Farrell must find the right balance between addressing past mistakes and building for the future

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell has decisions to make

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell has decisions to make

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Jacob Stockdale, breaking breaks away to score his try during the England, should start at No 15

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Jacob Stockdale, breaking breaks away to score his try during the England, should start at No 15

31 October 2020;  CJ Stander of Ireland needs more time at no 6

31 October 2020; CJ Stander of Ireland needs more time at no 6

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell has decisions to make

In an ideal world, Ireland would have arrived at Sunday’s game against Georgia on the back of a successful end to the Six Nations and a positive start to the Autumn Nations Cup.

In reality, however, Ireland find themselves in a tricky position in that last weekend’s defeat in Twickenham threw up the same kind of deficiencies that were evident in Paris.

Welcoming Georgia to Dublin was always going to provide Andy Farrell with a chance to dig into his depth chart, and while the Ireland head coach must be mindful of doing so, he cannot ignore the lack of cohesion and the obvious systemic problems.

From the malfunctioning lineout and poor kicking strategy to the muddled use of possession, there are issues to be addressed immediately. When Farrell sits down to pick his team, he will recognise the importance of striking the right balance between addressing past mistakes and building for the future.

It’s clear that, for now, Jacob Stockdale is Farrell’s preferred full-back, so it would be surprising if he doesn’t return to the 15 jersey this weekend.

The more game-time James Lowe gets at this level the better, while Keith Earls was a rare bright spark in the defeat to England. Shane Daly has had to stay patient for his debut and having overcome a recent knock, the Munster man must be close to earning his shot.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Jacob Stockdale, breaking breaks away to score his try during the England, should start at No 15

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Jacob Stockdale, breaking breaks away to score his try during the England, should start at No 15

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Jacob Stockdale, breaking breaks away to score his try during the England, should start at No 15


It has been highlighted in the media how Ireland were falling behind the latest kicking trend.

Stuart McCloskey can’t be far away from a start, but he doesn’t exactly offer the kind of play-making option that Ireland are crying out for.

It would be a big ask for Ciarán Frawley to make the step-up from the weekly PRO14 turkey shoot, but the versatile Leinster back fits the mould.

Pairing the uncapped 22-year-old with Chris Farrell would ensure that Ireland also have a power option.

The fact that Johnny Sexton was on waterboy duty in Twickenham suggested his hamstring is on the mend. However, there is little to be gained by putting him in against Georgia.

After his impressive cameo off the bench, Billy Burns has earned his first Test start, and playing alongside the experienced Conor Murray would give him the best chance to impress.

Harry Byrne and Craig Casey have spent time in camp. Now is an ideal time to ease the impressive 21-year-old pair into international rugby.

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This is the biggest area of concern. Ed Byrne picked up an injury late last week, which meant Finlay Bealham had to cover loosehead rather than his more natural tighthead position. That responsibility was left to John Ryan, who suffered a knock during the warm-up and couldn’t come on.

Much will depend on the pair’s fitness, as Cian Healy and Andrew Porter may be sprung into action again, while Eric O’Sullivan (24) has been going well with Ulster.

Despite his difficult afternoon in London, Rónan Kelleher needs more game-time to solidify the lineout.

Farrell hasn’t started his first-choice locks in any of the four games since the return of international rugby, and after the most recent lineout horror show, it would be a surprise if James Ryan and Iain Henderson aren’t in situ for the Georgia clash.

The return of Ryan Baird (21) is timely and having been named in the initial squad, the uncapped Leinster lock is another young player who looks ready to make the jump.

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31 October 2020;  CJ Stander of Ireland needs more time at no 6

31 October 2020; CJ Stander of Ireland needs more time at no 6

31 October 2020; CJ Stander of Ireland needs more time at no 6


Last weekend’s back-row did not look balanced, especially up against such a well-rounded English trio.

Caelan Doris offered another reminder of why he is likely to be the next long-term No 8, but the switch to blindside didn’t help CJ Stander, who had one of his quieter games.

However, he remains an important cog, and if Doris is going to continue at eight, it is worth Stander getting another run at six in order to develop a better understanding with Doris.

The absence of Rhys Ruddock continues to raise eyebrows, especially considering Jack Conan’s injury freed up a space in the back-row.

Ireland’s lack of a natural openside backfired in Twickenham. Josh van der Flier and Will Connors will battle it out for the seven jersey, with the latter ahead in the pecking order.

The return of Dan Leavy can’t come soon enough, but next year’s Six Nations is perhaps a more realistic target.

Given how quickly that will come around, Farrell is under pressure to have nailed down his strongest XV and develop a game-plan by the time Ireland begin their campaign in Cardiff on February 7.

Our Ireland team to face Georgia

15. Jacob Stockdale
14. Keith Earls
13. Chris Farrell
12. Ciaran Frawley
11. James Lowe
10. Billy Burns
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Ronan Kelleher
3. Andrew Porter
4. Ian Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. CJ Stander
7. Will Connors
8. Caelan Doris


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