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Former Ireland and Munster player Fiona Hayes joined Wednesday Night Rugby to discuss Stuart McCloskey.

Ireland are a settled team for the most part.

The biggest controversy in Ireland's squad is generally the backup out-half and whether Joey Carbery should start more international games so he can develop. But now Carbery isn't even in the squad so that's no longer a question. Instead, Ireland need to figure out who to play outside of Jonathan Sexton and inside Garry Ringrose.

Ringrose is in phenomenal form alongside new centre partner Jamie Osborne at Leinster. Osborne is starting because Robbie Henshaw is injured.

Henshaw is also out of the initial Ireland squad, so there's a chance that Osborne could start. Bundee Aki is in the Ireland squad, but he's not playing for Connacht at the moment. Andy Farrell trusts Aki and in theory he is the next-best starter. He is a proven player in the system, at the international level and he has previously captained the side.

Aki has discipline concerns though. He hasn't adapted to the new tackle laws, which ultimately opened the opportunity for Stuart McCloskey to start for Ireland in November.

Fiona Hayes believes that McCloskey played well enough in November that he deserves the #12 jersey.

"Jamie Osborne, we've seen him. He's been absolutely immaculate for Leinster," Hayes said.

"He's getting better with each game, he obviously doesn't quite have the stock yet at that high, international level. So he's probably not there yet, but being in that environment, going into a World Cup cycle will absolutely push him on as a player.

"If Bundee isn't fit or he isn't training to the best of his ability, I'd have all my faith in McCloskey. He's absolutely doing a job for Ulster and week in, week out we only notice it with Ulster when he's not playing. The impact that he actually has on that team.

"And he should be given a couple of games definitely during Six Nations time to prove his worth. Definitely.

"He's really an excellent player I think."

Who will Ireland start against Wales in Cardiff? Who should Ireland start in Wales against Cardiff? Andy Farrell can't say he doesn't have great options and diversity to choose from at least.

England are less intimidating without Billy Vunipola - Monday Night Rugby.


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Andy Farrell Bundee Aki Ireland Jamie Osborne Six Nations Stuart Mccloskey

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