Difficult or difficult luck before? Should there be more Ulster players in the Ireland squad?

The most important team selection of the Andy Farrell era came last November. You could have sworn on Leinster that New Zealand were facing in Dublin that day instead of Ireland, 12 of the XV baseline left out of Leo Cullen’s squad.

After the risk got its reward, a pattern was set. Ireland won 29-20 and has gone on to win most of their matches since then, another defeat in Paris and another defeat at Eden Park in their last excellent record of 14 wins from 16 Tests.

At the heart of the success was consistency and continuity in their playing, against the background of continuity in their selection.

Overall, the starting XVs were loaded into the biggest matches with Leinster players, 11 for the crucial Test wins of their tour of New Zealand to Wellington, 12 for the previous week at Dunedin, and 11 for a 32-15 win at Twickenham.

In contrast, the only Ulster representatives at those games were substitutes Ian Henderson, Kieran Treadwell and Rob Herring, although Henderson had already started with a November series win over the All Blacks in Dublin.

Should there have been more?

On Saturday, Ulster coach Dan MacFarland was asked about Stuart McCluskey’s place in the international context.

The top position changed the game in Belfast midway through the second quarter when a combination of strength and ingenuity saw him take two of Connacht’s defenders out of the equation before dropping to Luke Marshall to run on the match’s opening attempt.

Stuart McCluskey excelled on Saturday.

Source: Ben Brady / INPHO

It was an outrageous skill, something Irish fans rarely see, not only because few other Irish players have the ability to pull off a play like that, but also because Irish fans have only had the chance to see Stuart McCluskey in a green. Six occasions.

He’s not the only Ulster player to be considered unlucky. Half Scrum’s Nathan Duak, and before him, John Coney, as well as Marty Moore and winger Robert Balcon could make compelling arguments to say they should have won more matches, or indeed just one title in Duac’s case.

This in turn leads to the next question. If McCloskey should be there, who should be outside? Bondi Aki or Rob Henshaw? The two players, as Ulster coach Dan MacFarland, on Saturday evening after Ulster’s 36-10 win over Connacht, toured with the British and Irish Lions.

It’s an ongoing question, it’s a debate,” MacFarland said. “In another man’s world, Stu has been playing every game for the last five years for Ireland. It depends on what you want (as head coach), because he gives a lot.

“But saying he should definitely play every week (for Ireland) also means taking away from the competitive nature in that position. I mean you have British and Irish Lions (Henshaw and Aki) playing there, so you could say he’s unlucky because he’s among a bunch of positions in Ireland that plays at an incredible level.

“I would love to see Stu in an Ireland shirt and I thought he was cool. He offers different dimensions to other players. One of the problems in the past is that he may have been described early on as just a dumpling cart in the middle of the field but he is ridiculously skilled. His ability to take the ball To the line and pull those passes is one of the best things. I’m sure if his name gets called he’ll do a great job.”

The same can be said for Moore, Duac and Balocon – the last duo were selected to travel to South Africa for the three-match Emerging Ireland Tour. At this point, a year into the World Cup, it’s not a huge leap to believe that both players could make their way to Farrell’s mobile team, and beyond his team.

Nathan Duke with Josh Murphy

Doak was selected by Emerging Ireland.

Source: Evan Treacy / INPHO

Nothing is set on stone. Just take a look at how Jack Konan started the 2021 Six Nations Championship at the fringes of Ireland’s squad and finished the season as a British and Irish lion to get an indication of how quickly things can change in rugby. Similarly, look at Jamison Gibson-Park; It was Ireland’s first choice before it was Leinster.

Doak, the youngster who broke ground at Ulster last year, has an extraordinary kicking game, in addition to being brave, skilled and physically strong. The fact that he has made this emerging Ireland squad is a clear sign that he could move quickly into the first setup for the November series.

Baloucoune and Jacob Stockdale, the latter returning to competitive rugby on Saturday after a year-long absence, also stand a good chance of breaking into the Irish Test XV, Stockdale’s credentials buoyed by what he’s done to Ireland in the past, and Baloucoune with the promise of what he can do in the future. Remember that a year ago almost no one had heard of Mac Hansen. This shows how quickly the door can open especially if you fit a certain sporting profile. Farrell places a high value on fitness and speed. Those are the qualities that Balokon does not lack.

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But he lacks a large number of international matches. Most Ulster players do that. As a team it has always been one of the top teams in the URC/Pro14 for the past four years plus they’ve had some big results in Europe. But Leinster won more. More importantly, since their win over the All Blacks last November, when the Irish team became full of Leinster, they have backed it up with the results in the green jersey.

This leaves Doak, McCloskey, Stockdale and Baloucoune playing a waiting game, realizing that if they have a chance, they should take it. MacFarland certainly has no doubts about them.

“Stu has made really good improvements in his defensive leadership; he’s a really good defender. Stu isn’t overly vocal but he’s a guy who does his work and can give confidence to the other men around him. In general, all the guys who play alongside him like to do that and why wouldn’t you?” “

The Ulster coach also mentioned Moore’s scrutiny abilities, noting that he is one of the best in his trade in Ireland. However, Farrell prefers Moore’s Ulster teammate, Tom O’Toole, just as he rated Treadwell above Alan O’Connor, even though it was Moore and O’Connor who used to start Ulster’s biggest games last season.

On Saturday, another new kid rolled off the production line, prostitute Tom Stewart showing off a quick blast trying to score one attempt and create another. He just has the type of player Farrell tends to pick, and then fast-tracks him on the Emerging Ireland tour to South Africa.

“If he continues in his way of developing, he will be a really good player for us,” MacFarland said. “It’s not the final article but he has to keep going, he has to keep evolving physically and he has to keep developing his skill set. It obviously has a high ceiling.”

Next year’s World Cup may come too early for the 21-year-old Stewart. But if he makes rapid progress and beats regional rival Rob Hering, he will find himself in a familiar company in the Ireland group. Henderson, O’Toole, even Treadwell after his summer tour, and Stockdale if he stays fit will definitely be in France.

Duak is another person who should keep his bags of luggage close at hand. McCluskey, Balocon, Mike Lowrey, James Hume and Nick Timoney will likely get a chance over the next 12 months. The question, then, is whether they are good enough to take.