Five Ireland players to watch

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Johnny Sexton

 

He might be nearing 37, but the seasoned and classy No 10 is still coming up trumps, helping Leinster to the Champions Cup semifinals, Ireland to victory over the All Blacks in November last year and up to fourth position in the world rankings. Sexton’s Six Nations form was solid and it was no coincidence that he was absent in the team’s sole defeat, to France. He is poised to raise a milestone in New Zealand, his 105 Test caps having yielded 981 points so far.

 

Jamison Gibson-Park

 

From Taranaki, the Blues and the Hurricanes to Dublin several years ago, the halfback’s rise has shown no signs of abating in the last 12 months, having usurped Conor Murray as Ireland’s first-choice No 9. Like Black Ferns Lock Ella Blackwell, Gibson-Park was born on Great Barrier Island. He is an effective sniper around the rucks and his service is sharp to his outsides. He returned a consistent Six Nations, being one of Ireland’s best in all five games and taking the man of the match award in the victory over England.

James Lowe

 

One of four Irish Kiwis in the squad, the former Chiefs and Tasman wing is coming off a fine Six Nations campaign and season with Leinster.

He crossed for three tries in his three 6N outings, taking him to six in 12 Tests for Ireland. Lowe has plenty of competition from Mack Hansen but has lifted his vaunted attacking game and is on the improve defensively. He turns 30 the day before the second Test match.

 

Caelan Doris

 

You’ll recall this athletic loose forward powering over for a try against the All Blacks in November.

Doris has continued that sterling form for both Ireland and Leinster this season. Though young in international experience, with 17 caps, he combines well with fellow Leinster standout Josh van der Flier to give Ireland plenty of depth in the loose forward department. Furthermore, he’s a strong lineout option who is unafraid of getting his hands dirty when the going gets tough.

 

Tadhg Furlong

 

Fit to rank as one of the world’s premier tighthead props, Furlong may have a first name that is difficult to spell, but there is no ambiguity about his work at set-piece. An immovable object at scrum time, Furlong can carry with vigour and has even been known to throw in a sidestep. His all-round display against England gave a clear indication of his value to this team. He was the sole Irishman in World Rugby’s dream team of 2021.

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