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Farrell: It’s Exciting For Frawls, He’s Been Waiting For This Chance

Farrell: It’s Exciting For Frawls, He’s Been Waiting For This Chance

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell spoke to the media after revealing the team to play Wales in the third round of the Guinness Men's Six Nations ©INPHO/Tom Maher

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell wants Ciaran Frawley to grasp his opportunity with both hands when he makes his first senior international start against Wales on Saturday.

Frawley was first called up to the Ireland squad for the 2021 Autumn Nations Series, but missed out on a matchday involvement until making his debut off the bench against Italy during last August’s Bank of Ireland Nations Series.

He also came on for the final four minutes of Ireland’s record 38-17 win away to France at the start of the month, but with Hugo Keenan nursing a knee injury, he now gets to feature at full-back from the off against Wales.

The Skerries man’s versatility, marking him out as the squad’s own Swiss army knife, has almost counted against him at times, given he is often seen as the ideal pick for the number 23 jersey.

Farrell is urging him to go out and prove that he should be involved each match week, saying: “For Frawls, his first Six Nations start. Exciting for him. He’s always been in and around the squad and pushing.

“The versatility that Frawls has got has always probably earmarked him for a bench spot, etc., but he’s been waiting for this chance. Hugo doesn’t get injured too much, does he?

“Frawls’ skillset is fantastic, and I’m sure that it’s a big week for him, so there’ll be a test of his temperament. He’s playing in a good side so I’m sure he’ll take his chance.

“He’s trained there (at full-back) for us a lot and we started the campaign with him over there in Portugal, training as a 15, so it’s very natural for him to fill that position. He deserves his chance in that position.

“He has been in and around the squad, and he’s always had an appetite to want to get to this type of position. Now it has come around, I’m sure it’s a big moment for him and his family to start the game.

“But it’s all about performing, isn’t it? And taking your chance. That’s what international rugby is all about. All you need is a chance, it’s up to the individuals to go and take that and prove a point.”

Frawley is one of seven personnel changes to the Ireland team that beat Italy 36-0 in the last round. Bundee Aki and Jamison Gibson-Park return to the back-line, as do Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, captain Peter O’Mahony, and Josh van der Flier up front.

O’Mahony, who will make his 50th Six Nations appearance, and Furlong has both shaken off calf injuries to start, while Aki has recovered sufficiently from a knee issue to combine again with Robbie Henshaw in midfield.

“Obviously we had a few injuries the last time, and there’s a few injuries this time around as well,” explained Farrell, who expects Keenan, Garry Ringrose (shoulder), and Iain Henderson (dislocated toe) to be back available for the England game on Saturday, March 9.

“Those guys who were not fit to play against Italy have used their time well and are fit and raring to go.

“It freshens things up a little bit, but having said that, I think it’s a good side. It’s one that we’re excited to see take the field on Saturday.”

A six-two bench split has been deployed for the second time in this year’s Championship, with the most notable inclusion seeing Munster’s Oli Jager poised to make his Ireland debut as cover at tighthead.

The Ireland coach said that Finlay Bealham had ‘a decent game’ the last day, but that Jager ‘deserves his chance for what he’s shown what he can do for us’. It is clear that the 6ft 4in, almost-130kg prop has quickly made an impression on his return to these shores.

The former Ireland Under-18 Schools international, who played for Naas RFC and both Newbridge College and Blackrock College, enjoyed an impressive 10-year spell in New Zealand, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders.

He moved back to Ireland earlier this season, having signed a contract with Munster up until the summer of 2027. His initial appearances for the province were enough to earn him an Ireland call-up as a training panellist ahead of the Six Nations.

Jager has since been bumped up to the main squad, with Farrell acknowledging: “First and foremost, it’s always a pleasure to give someone their debut. I think this is a special one because it’s a special story in Oli.

“In fact, I’ve had a couple of conversations with him over the years. When we were over in New Zealand (for the 2022 summer tour), I met him about his plans and where that sat.

“He was content enough because he was building a really nice life for himself over there and doing unbelievably well for the Crusaders. But he showed his ambition to come back to Ireland and make a claim for a spot playing for his country.

“We’ve had him earmarked for a while but watching him start his career in Ireland at Munster and how that’s gone, and then giving him the opportunity to come to Portugal with us and he’s had a few more weeks with the squad since then, we’ve been nothing but impressed.

Oli’s a big man, very low maintenance, a proper man’s man, you know? The ‘tache says it all, doesn’t it?

“He’s very knowledgeable, well coached, and for a big man he gets around the field and has got a good feel. He deserves his chance.

“I thought coming into camp and then transferring that to his performance against the Scarlets where he had not actually played for quite some time was pretty impressive. So, we’re excited for him to show what he’s got on Saturday.”

Ulster captain Henderson joined Ireland’s injury list when he had to be replaced on the half hour mark against the Ospreys last Sunday. Farrell is hopeful that he will be in the selection mix for the trip to Twickenham, along with Ringrose and Keenan.

“Garry’s not quite right (yet), and Iain Henderson has a dislocated toe. Hendy’s going to be fit sooner rather than later, so hopefully for the England game.

“Garry has trained with us all week, and he has done for the last 10 days in the fallow week as well, not contact though. He’s made good progress.

“There’s no point in pushing him into a contact session and setting him back again because he’s made so much good progress. He’s nearly there but not quite.”

The Wigan man added: “Hugo’s making great progress. He’s using his time wisely. As I said, he doesn’t get injured too much, although the longevity that he’s had and the way he plays the game has given him this last couple of weeks to be able to clean a few things up and he’s worked unbelievably hard on that.

“As far as his knee injury is concerned, he’s making great progress and we expect him to be back for the England game.”