Ireland sit top of the World Rugby rankings going into 2023 and with a host of young guns emerging to bolster Andy Farrell’s squad, they may take some toppling.
Head coach Farrell will hope Ireland can live up to their tag as top dogs when the latest instalment of Rugby’s Greatest Championship begins in a few weeks’ time, having finished a close second to 2022 Grand Slam winners France.
Should Farrell wish to freshen up his chargers, there are several talented young prospects who have put their hand up with impressive displays in both the United Rugby Championship and in European action.
He may be reluctant to tinker with his squad too much in a World Cup year, but with form and injuries bound to impact his selection for the Guinness Six Nations and beyond, let’s take a look at those who are waiting in the wings.
Joe McCarthy – 1 cap
Farrell has already earmarked Joe McCarthy as a player with “tremendous potential” and handed the second row a first senior cap in the Autumn Nations Series.
Having been born in New York, McCarthy is not your typical Irish prospect but the country’s rugby blueprint is certainly not foreign to this burgeoning 21-year-old.
He first gained national attention during the 2020 Under-20 Six Nations campaign, appearing from the bench in all three matches before the Covid-19 pandemic brought proceedings to a premature end.
Since then, he has made great strides at Leinster where he has, naturally, been thrust into an environment that prides itself on winning.
McCarthy started in the quarter and semi finals of Leinster’s 2021/22 United Rugby Championship season, scoring in the former against Edinburgh Rugby, while he was also a late substitute in last year’s Heineken Champions Cup final.
He was one of just five new faces named in Farrell’s 40-man squad for the tour of New Zealand in the summer, before his first international minutes came in Round 4 of the Autumn Nations Series against Australia.
Standing at 6ft 6 and 120kg, he won’t be hard to miss if Farrell offers him more chances to impress in the spring.