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Kilcoyne lauds young gun Baird for adding 'X factor' to Farrell's array of options

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Big impact: Ryan Baird impressed against Scotland at the weekend

Big impact: Ryan Baird impressed against Scotland at the weekend

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Big impact: Ryan Baird impressed against Scotland at the weekend

Dave Kilcoyne believes nobody in the Ireland camp would have any doubts about the readiness of Ryan Baird for a first Test start should he come into the run-on for Saturday's Six Nations finale against England at the Aviva Stadium.

The 21-year-old came off the bench for a second time in the win over Scotland, playing a huge role in securing the pivotal penalty that skipper Johnny Sexton knocked over the 27-24 win.

With only a six-day turnaround between the trip to Murrayfield and welcoming Eddie Jones' men to Dublin, James Ryan was yesterday ruled out of the game, with the IRFU saying he will be "unavailable for the weekend following his removal for an HIA and his return to play will be managed by Leinster."

While Farrell will have the option of switching the in-form Tadhg Beirne into the engine room and selecting a different back-rower, Baird's impact from the bench will certainly have counted in his favour.

"We all know what Ryan Baird is capable of, I don't think anyone in the squad isn't," said Kilcoyne, who himself was a replacement against Scotland despite impressing from the off against Italy two weeks prior.

"Fortunately for us, and it's a tough headache for the coaches, but when you see a player like Ryan Baird coming on, he's got real X factor.

"He's a different type of player to James Ryan. Whereas James is an incredible player as well - excellent set-piece play, carries really hard, detail, ruck, everything - Ryan probably is a little bit different.

"He plays more like a wing or a back row and he is capable of a few things that most of us forwards aren't.

"To see him coming on was great and he'll take great confidence from his impact."

While Ryan is considered Ireland's most important forward, Kilcoyne believes it is a testament to the squad that Farrell has been able to utilise an impactful bench through this Championship.

Kilcoyne himself, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Baird and, in recent games, Jack Conan are all well suited to upping the physicality in the final quarter of games.

While naturally all would rather start, the bench has never been more important in the international game even if Ireland left two of their replacements kicking their heels for the 80 minutes last week.

"I don't want to give you the generic answer that it's in the coaches' hands but whatever the coaches need from me for that last weekend then that's my role," said the Munster man when asked if he felt his own impacts as a substitute had him pushing Cian Healy a start.

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"I think there is excellent competition in the squad, you mention Ryan Baird, if there was a knock to James Ryan, you see what he did.

"You've seen how well Ports has been playing and Tadhg Furlong comes back and plays like that.

"You see how well Rob Herring is playing and then Rónan Kelleher comes on and plays well.

"Cian has been playing very well, excellent (against Scotland), as well so there is competition right across the front row and right across the pack."

James Ryan was not the only player to be ruled out by Ireland in yesterday's update.

Ulster's uncapped tighthead prop Tom O'Toole has returned to the province having taken what the IRFU termed "a knock", with Connacht's Finlay Bealham to act instead as the prop cover for the England game, with Porter and Tadhg Furlong again to fill the two spots in the match day 23.

And Garry Ringrose has picked up an ankle knock necessitating a change in the side's midfield. Bundee Aki would seem the most obvious candidate to slot alongside his former Connacht team-mate Robbie Henshaw, with Chris Farrell and Stuart McCloskey the other options.


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