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Ireland: Five to watch this summer

Ireland: Five to watch this summer

Craig Casey

In their opening game of the 2023 Summer Nations Series, Andy Farrell’s Ireland impressed as they picked up a 33-17 win over Italy.

There were three players that made their debuts at the Aviva Stadium that day, with World Rugby’s number one ranked side proving their depth with numerous stars rested for the fixture.

Now enjoying a rest week in Portugal, the world’s number one ranked side have a two-week run up to taking on England at the Aviva Stadium as both teams’ run ins to 2023 Rugby World Cup continues.

With Guinness Six Nations holders’ next Test match on the horizon, here is a look at some of the names that will be looking to impress both now and in the future for their country.

@autumnnationsseriesThe green machine marches on

♬ original sound – Autumn Nations Series ⚡️

Jack Crowley

When injury struck Joey Carbery last season, Munster turned to Jack Crowley. At 23, the fly-half is just two years into his senior professional career and found himself utilised elsewhere on the field with Carbery the senior player in the red jersey.

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In the United Rugby Championship, it was Crowley the propelled Munster to their first domestic title in 12 years when the side beat reigning champions, the Stormers, in South Africa.

Stepping to the fore last weekend, Crowley looked comfortable as he helped his team to victory and kicked two penalties in the process.

With Johnny Sexton’s time as the starting playmaker nearing its end, Crowley combined effectively with his club teammate, Craig Casey, potentially offering a glimpse of what Ireland half-back pairing could look like for the years to come.

Craig Casey

It was early on in his career that Craig Casey was touted as Irish rugby’s next great scrum-half. Following in the footsteps of Peter Stringer and Conor Murray at Munster, Casey is a player that should be taking a regular on the team sheet in the coming years.

Aged 24, Casey has regularly starred for his province, but is yet to make his mark at Test level. This is, in part, because of the dominance that Murray and Jamison Gibson-Park have had in the position, but after an encouraging outing last weekend, Casey has again staked a claim for more opportunities.

Helping Munster to their United Rugby Championship crown this season, more opportunities this summer will certainly further Casey’s claim for a Rugby World Cup slot too.

A lively scrum-half, Casey is always a threat due to his speed at the breakdown, while a well-rounded skillset makes the man from Limerick a nuisance for defenders the world over.

@autumnnationsseriesThe green machine is rolling over 💚

♬ original sound – Ian Asher

Ciaran Frawley

One of the debutants from the Italian encounter, Frawley came off the bench for Ireland and kicked a conversion. Just a glimpse of what the versatile backline player is capable of, Frawley is an intriguing prospect for Andy Farrell.

Australia-born, Frawley enjoyed his best season in Leinster blue at the age of 25. Stepping in at fly-half, centre and full-back, it was a well-rounded season for the back as his province exited the United Rugby Championship at the semi-final stage of the competition.

Part of what makes Frawley’s emergence so intriguing is that it has come at the same time as Jack Crowley. Each are capable fly-half options, while also capable of operating elsewhere in the backline and could be the long-term successors to Johnny Sexton.

Joe McCarthy

In a short space of time, Joe McCarthy has set the foundations to becoming a staple of the Ireland second-row for the years to come. Making his Leinster debut in early 2022, the New York-born lock made his international debut in the 2022 Autumn Nations Series against Australia.

At just 22 years old, the Leinster forward has been tipped to “have a huge Irish career” by last weekend’s skipper, Iain Henderson, speaking to the youngster’s potential as he makes these tentative first steps into the professional game.

Scarier still, Joe is not the only McCarthy hoping to make waves in Test rugby.

Younger brother, Paddy, was one of the standout performers for the Ireland U20s at the World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa and could well be packing down for Ireland in the front-row sooner rather than later.

@autumnnationsseries Doris’ double gave @Irish Rugby a healthy boost late in the game against Italy to help seal the win in Dublin. #Breitling #DefiningMoment @Breitling #Ad ♬ original sound – Autumn Nations Series ⚡️

Tom O’Toole

Ulster tighthead prop Tom O’Toole made his Ireland debut in 2021 against the USA. Since then, chances for the 24-year-old have been few and far between as Tadhg Furlong and Finlay Bealham have shared duties in the front-row.

Against Italy, it was O’Toole that was invited to start the game with British and Irish Lion, Furlong, as his replacement. Taking the challenge of the world class Danilo Fischetti in his stride, O’Toole was replaced in the 51st minute with his team firmly in control.

Taking on England could well prove to be the decisive factor in O’Toole’s aim of representing Ireland at the Rugby World Cup and after missing r end of last season due to injury, immediate signs are that there are very few signs of rust.

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