Donal Lenihan: Farrell opts for evolution over revolution

That Conor Murray gets the nod at scrum-half for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday - despite the clamour for the in-form John Cooney - was predictable, writes Donal Lenihan.

Donal Lenihan: Farrell opts for evolution over revolution

That Conor Murray gets the nod at scrum-half for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday - despite the clamour for the in-form John Cooney - was predictable.

Murray hasn’t been at his best over the last 12 months but, having worked with the Munster man on the last two Lions tours and as Ireland’s defence coach over the last four years, Andy Farrell is convinced that Murray is still the man for the job. Coaches live or die by such decisions.

The fully merited call to start Caelan Doris at No. 8 may well have been a contributory factor in Murray’s favour with his experience and composure at the base of the scrum a big asset to Doris. In addition, Cooney will be afforded the chance to influence the final quarter off the bench.

The selection of Doris excites me. It’s been clear watching him at Ireland U20 level over the last two years that he is to the manor born. Just one of a number of exciting back row talents coming through the provincial system at the moment, his selection adds more balance to the Irish loose trio.

The inclusion of Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway in back three is not only deserved, it also reunites the entire back line that performed so well in Ireland’s best performance at the World Cup in the opening pool game against Scotland.

In all five changes to the side that started the World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand represents significant change given the limited preparation time available for Saturday’s Six Nations opener.

In addition, the bench, with another potential test debutant in the highly promising Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher, carries a significant impact in terms of explosive power and test experience to make make a big difference as the second half progresses.

Saturday’s game marks the start of Farrell’s journey as a head coach. This interesting selection suggests he is opting for evolution over revolution.

- You can read Donal Lenihan's full column in Wednesday's Examiner Sport.

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