It’s a crazy old world at the minute and the unique circumstances we find ourselves in have seen the formation of the Autumn Nations Cup as an extension of the, only just completed, Six Nations tournament.
In a mad scramble to address the huge deficits in the coffers of the Six Nations teams they have finally consented to involve Georgia and Fiji in a meaningful competition outside of the World Cup. However, it should be pointed out that Georgia, perhaps the most deserving, only just slipped into the party thanks to Japan not being able to attend due to their travel restrictions.
Circumstances make this an important competition for the Six Nations teams. Having turned down an approach from World Rugby to join a global, 12-team Nations Championship, with a projected guarantee of £5 billion for the sport over 12 years, the Six Nations lifted the covers of their duvet for an exclusive period of negotiation with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners. CVC have already invested in England’s Premiership, and finalised an alleged UK£120 million deal for 28 per cent of the PRO14 in May 2020.
The deal with the Six Nations hit the buffers in March and CVC are now trying to put in a Coronavirus clause should future Six Nations games be cancelled, negotiations are ongoing but this may be the first step to putting the Six Nations behind a paywall.
In the short term it may be a perfect storm for the teams involved but what sort of damage will be caused by the time we get out the other side?
Anyway – to the rugby!
Ireland coach Andy Farrell has made quite a few changes since their last outing against France. In come Chris Farrell, James Lowe, Jamison Gibson Park, Ronan Kelleher, Ian Henderson and Josh Van Der Flyer to the starting line up with Will Connors and Conor Murray dropping to the bench. The bench also sees new faces, from the French match, in Quin Roux, Billy Burns and Keith Earls.
I had hoped that Farrell would have used the opportunity to continue to build towards the 2023 World Cup but rolling out the likes of Sexton, Healy, O’Mahony, Murray and Earls together with the additions of Lowe, Gibson-Park, Roux and Burns puts quite a few blockers in the development pathway for Ireland’s young talent. I think people are prepared to see more experimentation at the expense of results.
One former and two current Ulster players will be under the spotlight in this one. Former player, Chris Farrell gets a rare chance to show his skills in the centre and current player Billy Burns should get a chance to stake an early claim as heir apparent for the outhalf spot but both will need to dig in for three year campaigns in these competitive positions.
However, Jacob Stockdale will probably come under the most scrutiny as social media trolls hover over their keyboards to document every mistake, imagined or otherwise, that the talented youngster may be in the general vicinity of. As someone who fondly remembers his outstanding performances at fullback for Ireland U20’s in their highly successful 2016 World Championship I hope he scores a bagful. 🙂
You can see how they do on C4 tonight. Kick off 19:00
|JACOB STOCKDALE||15||LEIGH HALFPENNY|
|HUGO KEENAN||14||LIAM WILLIAMS|
|CHRIS FARRELL||13||JONATHAN DAVIES|
|ROBBIE HENSHAW||12||OWEN WATKIN|
|JAMES LOWE||11||JOSH ADAMS|
|JOHNNY SEXTON||10||DAN BIGGAR|
|JAMISON GIBSON-PARK||9||GARETH DAVIES|
|CIAN HEALY||1||RHYS CARRÉ|
|RONAN KELLEHER||2||RYAN ELIAS|
|ANDREW PORTER||3||TOMAS FRANCIS|
|IAIN HENDERSON||4||WILL ROWLANDS|
|JAMES RYAN||5||ALUN WYN JONES|
|PETER O’MAHONY||6||SHANE LEWIS-HUGHES|
|JOSH VAN DER FLIER||7||JUSTIN TIPURIC|
|CAELAN DORIS||8||TAULUPE FALETAU|
|DAVE HEFFERNAN||16||ELLIOT DEE|
|ED BYRNE||17||WYN JONES|
|FINLAY BEALHAM||18||SAMSON LEE|
|QUINN ROUX||19||JAKE BALL|
|WILL CONNORS||20||AARON WAINWRIGHT|
|CONOR MURRAY||21||LLOYD WILLIAMS|
|BILLY BURNS||22||CALLUM SHEEDY|
|KEITH EARLS||23||GEORGE NORTH|