| 1.6°C Belfast

The great debate: Should Will Addison have got the nod over Robbie Henshaw to replace Garry Ringrose?

 

Close

Centre parting: Luke McGrath stands between Robbie Henshaw (left) and Will Addison. Who will Andy Farrell plump for to fill Garry Ringrose’s boots?

Centre parting: Luke McGrath stands between Robbie Henshaw (left) and Will Addison. Who will Andy Farrell plump for to fill Garry Ringrose’s boots?

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Centre parting: Luke McGrath stands between Robbie Henshaw (left) and Will Addison. Who will Andy Farrell plump for to fill Garry Ringrose’s boots?

With Garry Ringrose out for the next two Six Nations matches, Andy Farrell had a job on his hands deciding which centre would take his place.

In the end, he plumped for seasoned campaigner Robbie Henshaw. But should Ulster's Will Addison have got the nod?

Cian Tracey and Ruaidhri O'Connor debate:

Robbie remains a classy operator, which we should all remember

By Cian Tracey

Last weekend's win over Scotland didn't exactly signal the dawning of a new era with a plethora of fresh faces staking their claim. Instead, it was more of a case of the old guard silencing their doubters.

CJ Stander did so in barnstorming fashion, while Peter O'Mahony also had a good game despite what the naysayers will have you believe.​

On one hand, it was pleasing to see the experienced players return to form, but on the other it was difficult to get away from the fact that most people left the Aviva on Saturday not feeling like they had witnessed the start of an exciting new time for Irish rugby.​

It was foolish to have expected a drastically different game plan after five training sessions under a new head coach - just like it was silly to write off players who have so often delivered for Ireland in big games through the years.​

The challenge facing Andy Farrell throughout the Six Nations is blooding new players and combinations, while not discarding the good work that has gone before.​

Robbie Henshaw hasn't received anything like the same level of criticism that Stander and O'Mahony have gotten from armchair pundits in recent months, but the calls for more of a playmaker to replace the injured Garry Ringrose are growing louder.​

By his own high standards, Henshaw has not been firing on all cylinders this season, yet he need only look at the performance that Stander produced in the win over Scotland to know how quickly the mood music can change.​

The Athlone native had a decent game without setting the world alight when he replaced Ringrose at half-time, which is perhaps why some people want to see Will Addison, Chris Farrell or Stuart McCloskey get a chance.​

As impressive as Addison has been, he has started all eight of his Ulster games this season at full-back. Farrell hasn't exactly been tearing up trees with Munster, while McCloskey wasn't even included in the original squad.​

Henshaw hasn't been stinking up the joint to not merit a chance to play his way back into top form.​ The 26-year-old has an excellent understanding with Bundee Aki going back to their time at Connacht together, so it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see them rekindle that.​

Henshaw hates when he gets pigeon-holed as a crash-ball 12 because he has always had more strings to his bow.​

He hasn't had the chance to showcase that often enough as he has been asked to perform a particular role, but if given the 13 jersey he can prove that he can be dangerous in the wider channels.​

Outside centre is something of a problem position for Wales right now with Jonathan Davies sidelined.​

The George North experiment went totally untested against Italy and if he does get a start there again in Dublin, Farrell will look to target him.​

Nick Tompkins could well come into the Wales team after impressing off the bench on his debut last week, but even if the Saracens midfielder is handed his first start, his inexperience at international level is something that Henshaw can definitely exploit.​

With Aki inside him doing the heavy lifting, this would be an opportunity for Henshaw to thrive in a more fluid role.​

An excellent defender who so often sets the tone for Leinster, it's easy to forget that Henshaw can also offer a strong attacking threat.​

Although we haven't seen enough of that over the last few months, it doesn't mean that he is suddenly not capable.​

A hamstring injury pretty much ruined his World Cup and who knows if he is still working his way back to full fitness after busting a gut to feature in the latter stages in Japan.​

When you think back to some of Ireland's great days, Henshaw was a central figure and would have more than 41 caps but for injury.​

People are too quick to disregard some of the good things in the past and, while everyone wants to see new blood, it shouldn't be forgotten that Henshaw is a classy operator who can deliver when it matters most.

Ulster ace Will has to be natural choice to take over from Garry

By Ruaidhri O’Connor

Wales kept Ireland scoreless for 83 minutes in Cardiff last season despite the visitors having the ball for 60 per cent of the game and spending 62 per cent of it in the Welsh half.

For phase after phase, they ran into brick walls with no reward on one of the most frustrating outings of the Joe Schmidt era.

Garry Ringrose partnered Bundee Aki that day, but even the Leinster star could only manage eight metres from six carries. Aki made seven metres from nine carries. That game was played in driving rain and Wales have since changed defence coach, but their personnel and strategy won’t have altered too much.

Ireland must find ways through and around the red wall if they are to make it two wins from two against Saturday’s visitors.

Despite last year’s struggle, Ringrose has become Johnny Sexton’s eyes and ears in the outside backs.​ He’ll miss Saturday’s game through injury and head coach Andy Farrell has three options to choose from.​

Robbie Henshaw is the obvious call, given he came off the bench against the Scots and has played at outside centre on a number of occasions for Ireland.

Chris Farrell is Munster’s starting No.13 and a physical attacker with soft hands. He’s been good every time he’s played for Ireland.

However, the most like-for-like replacement for Ringrose is Will Addison. If Ireland want to play a more heads-up style, the English-born Ulsterman is the closest thing they have to Ringrose.​

He is the least experienced of the trio, the only one who didn’t go to the World Cup, and he’s played all of his rugby this season at full-back with Luke Marshall the Kingspan side’s preferred outside centre.​

Last Saturday, Ireland looked to play with width and vary their attack. Although they did go to the box-kick when they needed to gain territory, there was a real will to test the Scots.​

Pairing Aki and Henshaw together offers continuity. They played together seven times at Test level under Schmidt, while they established a good working relationship during their successful time together at Connacht.​

Physically, they won’t let Ireland down but there is a sameness to their style of play that could limit the way Ireland go about their task.​

Without Jon Davies, Wales will have a less than established partnership. Hadleigh Parkes is a quality operator, but last weekend he was paired with George North who never looks too comfortable in the No.13 channel.​

Saracens centre Nick Tompkins impressed on debut when he came on against Italy and is a quality player, but, again, he is new to the system.​

Addison’s quick feet, elusive running lines, excellent decision-making and good passing make him the perfect attacking foil for Aki.​

There appears to be some question marks over Addison’s robustness.​ Indeed, a reason Farrell outlined for his absence from the team to face Scotland was that he hadn’t been able to train in the team’s camp in Portugal. However, when he has been fit to play for Ulster this season he has been outstanding.​

John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey have often hogged the headlines, but the former Sale man has been able to add something extra to their attack.​

His ball skills and versatility are such that Schmidt trusted him to cover out-half in the World Cup warm-up win in Cardiff last August.​ Coming a week after the Twickenham disaster, that day was a more pressurised game than any pre-tournament fixture should be, but Addison’s ability to hit the ground running was key to the win.

He was operating at full-back but his footballing ability and game-breaking running threat shone through.​

Perhaps there is sense in unleashing Addison off the bench to change things up during the game.​ But if Ireland want to develop their game and present more threats, Addison should wear the No.13.

Belfast Telegraph