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Brennan's brief Five Irish rugby players who need big performances over the next fortnight to nail down World Cup places

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and forwards coach Paul O'Connell before the Autumn Nations Series clash between Ireland and Argentina last November. Credit: Sportsfile

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and forwards coach Paul O'Connell before the Autumn Nations Series clash between Ireland and Argentina last November. Credit: Sportsfile

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and forwards coach Paul O'Connell before the Autumn Nations Series clash between Ireland and Argentina last November. Credit: Sportsfile

It seems like only yesterday that Ireland’s Rugby World Cup dreams hit a black wall in the quarter-final of the 2019 competition when New Zealand hockeyed us.

But the next Rugby World Cup in France is just 21 months away and the road to that tournament takes a steep upward curve over the next fortnight with all four provinces playing in the European Cup.

These are the last two chances for Irish professionals to catch the eye of national coach Andy Farrell before he names his squad for the first two matches of the 2022 Six Nations – at home to Wales and away to France.

Between now and the World Cup, Ireland will play just 16 competitive games. Farrell is tasked with doing well in every Six Nations, he is not going to pitch inexperienced players in to any of the three Tests against New Zealand this summer, nor into the November matches at home against Australia and the world champion South Africans.

So if you are not in Farrell’s thinking now, there’s few enough chances to come to suggest you might be when the World Cup comes around.

Here are five Irish rugby players who need big performances over the next fortnight to nail down their role in Ireland’s rugby journey to the 2023 World Cup.

James Hume (Ulster) – Ireland aren’t short of centres, we had two of them on the Lions Tour last year and many felt Garry Ringrose ought to have been there with Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw as well. But Hume is now pushing the trio hard for their Ireland places. He’s big, he’s strong, he can tackle and Hume can dodge opponents too. Outstanding so far this season, Hume needs two more serious shifts and then Farrell can hardly ignore him.

Jack Carty (Connacht) – With Joey Carbery out for the first two Six Nations matches, at least, Carty is now in pole position to assume the role as Johnny Sexton’s No 2 in the vital out-half position with Ireland. Carty has been excellent for Connacht this season and his game management is improving all the time. It’s a big fortnight for him.

Ryan Baird (Leinster) – Such are the resources available to Leinster coach Leo Cullen, that the giant, but very athletic, second-row Baird is not even certain of his game with his province. But he will really want a chance to strut his stuff against Montpellier and Bath with that Irish squad selection coming up.

Nick Timoney (Ulster) - We’re strong at centre, but back-row is where Andy Farrell has a truly serious amount of riches. He could pick three quality back-row combinations. Yet it is hard to see how he can ignore the claims of flanker Timoney to a place in the Irish squad. Outstanding for Ulster all season, Timoney is a great player.

Gavin Coombes (Munster) - At 24, Coombes is just ready for international rugby. He can play in the back-row or the second-row, just the sort of versatility an international coach loves. Capped by Ireland last year, Coombes is ready for the next step up. He’ll want to see his name in lights in a fortnight’s time.

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