The criticism that the Ireland squad has received by fans is not something that is new to Brian O’Driscoll these days.
Andy Farrell’s announced his 36-man squad for the 2021 Guinness Six Nations today, and the concerns raised online are akin to those from previous squad announcements.
O’Driscoll has picked up on this, and wryly shared on Twitter what he thought would be the inevitable assessment of Farrell’s selection.
“Thoughts on this squad? Let me guess people aren’t happy with the lack of ‘fresh blood’ & Ulster (or maybe all) fans the continued omission of John Cooney? Any positives on a postcard…”
Thoughts on this squad? Let me guess people aren’t happy with the lack of ‘fresh blood’ & Ulster (or maybe all) fans the continued omission of John Cooney? Any positives on a postcard… pic.twitter.com/oAVod2UyEJ
— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) January 25, 2021
The former Ireland captain is not wrong, as the lack of new caps has been a persistent complaint ever since Joe Schmidt’s final season in charge. With only two uncapped players in the squad (Tom O’Toole and Craig Casey), the selection has been labelled “conservative” by some fans, while Irish rugby has been accused of “standing still”.
As for the Cooney omission, a selection choice that continues to generate mass hysteria despite the Ulster scrum-half consistently being overlooked by Farrell. His province’s good form in the Guinness PRO14 has only fanned the flames this season.
There are of course plenty of positives to be taken from the squad, such as Tadhg Furlong’s return to the squad after almost a year out of action. That is even met with a tinge of scepticism, as there are question marks over his form and fitness.
The Leinster tighthead was certainly missed in the autumn, particularly in the loss to England, which is why it is no surprise that he has been fast-tracked back into the squad. This is not unique to Ireland, however, as Eddie Jones faces a continual backlash regarding his decision not to select Exeter Chiefs’ Sam Simmonds or his brother Joe for England.
Ireland begin their Six Nations campaign against Wales at the Principality Stadium on Sunday 7th February.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now