Ireland is in desperate need of someone to challenge Hugo Keenan at fullback, in order to start building depth there, according to former Munster and Ireland front rowers Keith Wood and Fiona Hayes.
On Wednesday, Andy Farrell announced his squad that will be looking to retain their Six Nations title this year. It is the first Irish squad to be named since Johnny Sexton's and Keith Earls' retirements following their World Cup heartbreak last year.
In spite of a few key retirements and injuries, Ireland's Six Nations squad boasts the only selection without a single debutant in the panel (excluding the development players named).
While Ireland has plenty of depth throughout the majority of the matchday XV, one position sticks out most of all as having only one option. This begs the question; what happens if Hugo Keenan suffers an injury?
Who plays at fullback if Keenan gets injured?
Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Grand Slam winner Fiona Hayes answered this very question based on the team named by Farrell.
"I think they'd actually go with [Ciaran] Frawley," Hayes said. "I think that's why [he's in the squad]. Obviously he hasn't earned his shot at 10, but I'm not sure they'd play Stockdale. I think they'd give Frawley the nod.
Former Ireland captain Keith Wood agreed, suggesting that either of the two versatile outhalves could step in at 15 if the need arises.
"Yeah, it's Frawley or [Jack] Crowley," Wood added. "There's enough players that can multitask."
However, Wood emphasised that this would only be a stop-gap solution, and that he would hate to see anything happen to Keenan.
"I wouldn't like to see Hugo Keenan get injured, that's one thing I would say," Wood said. "I just think he's a class act. We are looking for someone to challenge him for his position.
"That's when we know we have strength in depth, when that happens, and there isn't at the moment."
He needs to be challenged
While Munster's Simon Zebo has stepped up in recent weeks at fullback for his province, his age profile is not what is required for Ireland going forward. The 33-year-old is not even in the Irish squad.
For this reason, Wood wants to see a younger player enter the fray to challenge Keenan for his position.
"I think Zebo has played very well," Wood added. "I actually thought Zebo lead for the last three or four weeks, which isn't something you traditionally say about him.
"He took on the role of the elder statesman in that Munster backline and fulfilled his job, and did very well. But, for someone to challenge Keenan going forward, there needs to be a young turk coming through."
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