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Fringe players out to impress Farrell logo 3 days ago Cian Tracey
Andy Farrell © Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images Andy Farrell

Opportunity knocks for the 13 Ireland players released to their provinces this weekend as they hope to get some much-needed game-time and stake their claim ahead of next week's Twickenham showdown.

The majority of the group who left the international squad earlier this week have played little to no rugby in the Six Nations thus far, and will be eager to prove a point to Andy Farrell.

The Ireland head coach already looks to have a very settled match-day 23 for the England clash, which is no bad thing considering how well Ireland played in their first two games, particularly the win over Wales.

That said, the fringe players will feel that a strong performance in the PRO14 will give Farrell food for thought, not only for the England clash, but the remainder of the Six Nations. From that end, there is a lot at stake for the 13 released players, especially the following four.

RĂ³nan Kelleher

Ronan Kelleher © SPORTSFILE Ronan Kelleher

The Leinster hooker has shown no ill-effects of the hand injury that kept him out for eight weeks leading up to the Six Nations and Farrell has wisely not thrown him into the deep end.

Kelleher may only have got eight minutes off the bench against Scotland and 14 minutes last weekend, yet he has already shown that he was born to play at this level.

In both games, the 22-year-old was quietly effective and played his part in seeing out the victories. It may have gone unnoticed, but in the end-game of the Scotland clash, Kelleher helped Josh van der Flier secure the match-winning turnover by brilliantly clamping onto him at the breakdown.

Then in the win over Wales, his ferocious clear-out of a ruck, after a powerful Van der Flier carry, helped put the ball on a plate for John Cooney who put Andrew Conway in to score.

Kelleher will soon become Ireland's next long-term hooker, but in fairness to Rob Herring, he has started the Six Nations positively and does not deserve to be dropped next weekend.

However, Kelleher's form for Leinster before the setback was too good to ignore. If he can recapture that against the Cheetahs on Saturday, it will give Farrell something to ponder.

Max Deegan

Ireland's Max Deegan © ASSOCIATED PRESS Ireland's Max Deegan

Although he didn't get much of a chance to shine in his 10-minute debut last weekend, there is no doubt that was the first of many caps for the impressive young back-row.

The 23-year-old won't be resting on his laurels, especially not with a player of Rhys Ruddock's class looking to prove his own point at Leinster.

That Caelan Doris was retained in the Ireland squad and Deegan wasn't probably doesn't bode well for his chances of being involved at Twickenham, but Farrell will be monitoring how well Doris comes through training this week after his head injury.

Deegan has been working hard on the physical side of his game as he looks to pack a punch without losing the kind of mobility that makes him such a dynamic runner.

That's the biggest challenge he faces in making the step up to international rugby, but as he returns to the day job Deegan can concentrate on doing what he does best and enhance his rapidly growing reputation.

Chris Farrell

Chris Farrell © SPORTSFILE Chris Farrell

It's been a bit of a frustrating season for Chris Farrell, who hasn't quite hit the lofty standards he set for himself.

The midfield competition hasn't been as fierce for some time but as it has done in recent seasons, Ireland's centre curse has struck again.

Farrell was a victim of it two years ago when he damaged his ACL at a time when he was flying, while Garry Ringrose (broken thumb) and Robbie Henshaw (HIA) have succumbed to the same fate over the last fortnight.

Ringrose will miss the England game and while Henshaw is expected to have recovered, Farrell is the next man in.

The 26-year-old has never let Ireland down and is exactly the type of physical presence that Andy Farrell will relish having at his disposal.

If he is to force the issue, however, he could do with some game-time against the Kings tomorrow and remind the Ireland boss exactly what he is about.

Ultan Dillane

Quinn Roux  and Ultan Dillane © Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane

The Connacht lock has worked hard to get back into the Six Nations squad and appears to have moved ahead of his provincial team-mate Quinn Roux and Jean Kleyn in the pecking order.

Dillane must focus on his point of difference, which is his explosiveness. For all that Devin Toner brings to the party, he doesn't offer that same game-breaking threat off the bench.

Few will forget the rampaging run that Dillane went on when he made his international debut in Twickenham in 2016. A real power athlete, at 26, the Tralee native still has plenty of time to get back to those kind of levels.

Dillane may need a lucky break to get back into an Ireland jersey, but if he can impress for Connacht against Cardiff Blues on Saturday, he will do his chances of being involved in the Italy game no harm at all.


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