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Stephen Ferris confidently predicts Farrell's answers to key questions

A little over two weeks out from Ireland's opening game in the 2020 Six Nations, Stephen Ferris believes he has a pretty good hold on how Andy Farrell will answer some key selection questions. 

The first opportunity the former England international has had to serve as a head coach, much is as yet unknown regarding the kind of team Andy Farrell will attempt to create with Ireland.

"Reading into it and listening to a lot of the players who have worked under Andy Farrell," suggested Stephen Ferris on Wednesday's OTB AM, "I think he's looking for athletes, he's looking for the kind of back row playing for England.

"He wants lots of energy, lots of pace, lots of physicality [and players who are] mobile around the pitch."

Andy Farrell England's Tom Curry drives on supported by Sam Underhill during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Semi Final match against New Zealand at International Stadium Yokohama.

A trio the likes of which Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Billy Vunipola constitute for the beaten World Cup finalists isn't necessarily something Andy Farrell may find with the current crop of Ireland's experienced internationals in that role, however.

"There are some guys in this Irish team who may not be his kind of player," conceded Ferris. "Somebody like Peter O'Mahony who has been brilliant, he doesn't have that explosive power like a Max Deegan or a Caelan Doris.

"He has other attributes that are brilliant for international rugby, [though] and that's what Andy Farrell has got to weigh up."

Andy Farrell 19 October 2019; CJ Stander of Ireland during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter-Final match between New Zealand and Ireland at the Tokyo Stadium in Chofu, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

One of those potentially looking to be involved in Farrell's Irish back row is Munster's CJ Stander.

The subject of some stinging criticism from journalist Stuart Barnes on Off the Ball's 'Monday Night Rugby,' former Irish captain Keith Wood defended the South African-born Stander on Tuesday's OTB AM.

From Ferris' point of view, there was a slight leaning toward Barnes' argument in so far as Stander has work to do if he is to retain his position in the Irish team.

"Ah, Barnesy, he loves waving the knives," noted Ferris with a laugh. "He does have a couple of valid points [though as] some teams have found [Stander] out.

"For me, the likes of Deegan and Doris have really shown something different and they deserve an opportunity at some stage through the Six Nations.

"CJ Stander is going to have to raise his game because the pressure is on."

For the opening game of the Six Nations in against Scotland, however, Ferris expects Stander to be safe.

"I'd probably go with Deegan, O'Mahony and CJ Stander," he said of his own preferred back row. "What Andy Farrell's going to do is pick O'Mahony, van der Flier and Stander."

A point made with some authority, Stephen Ferris went as far to name his ideal starting XV (1-15): Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Ryan (Leinster), Henderson (Ulster), Deegan (Leinster), O'Mahony, Stander (Munster); Cooney (Ulster), Sexton (Leinster), Stockdale (Ulster), Henshaw (Leinster), McCloskey (Ulster), Ringrose (Leinster), Conway (Munster), Addison (Ulster).

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Andy Farrell CJ Stander Irish Rugby Peter O'Mahony Stephen Ferris Stuart Barnes

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