Ireland’s starting XVs for the four November Tests were decided well in advance. There is deep method to this era of unrecognisable success. Only injury and occasional bouts of magic will alter the mind of Joe Schmidt. Maybe. Strip selection criteria down to form, forget the hierarchy of Carton House or the Grand Slam parade last March, even park the series victory in Australia and who must start against Argentina?
That would be Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Beirne (above). The hockey prodigy has been nominated for World Rugby’s young player of the year while Beirne the best forward in Europe. Now, where to play them? Dropping Rob Kearney, Keith Earls or Jacob Stockdale seems unlikely so Larmour is number 23 despite an O’Driscoll-esque hat-trick in the 21-year-old’s first start for Ireland. Astonishing but Schmidt noted positional flaws. Beirne has been calling the Munster lineout this season but it requires a big leap by Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby to dislodge Devin Toner. Discarded a few seasons back, as Iain Henderson partnered with Donnacha Ryan, Toner responded with towering consistency. Or keep them all and James Ryan by playing Beirne at blindside but that means dropping Peter O’Mahony. Madness!
Injury solves this problem but Beirne and Larmour were the best players in green at Soldier Field. Ridiculously, these heady times suggest that might not be enough for them to be retained. Both look unstoppable.