Later this week, head coach Joe Schmidt names his squad for Ireland’s upcoming autumn internationals.
South Africa, Fiji and Argentina will all visit the Aviva Stadium in November and, as is tradition, who makes the Irish squad for their end-of-year Test series will spark all manner of debate across the nation.
A host of factors will have a bearing on who gets given the nod and we’ve picked out some of the key talking points ahead of that hotly-anticipated squad announcement.
Zebo sweats on selection
Earlier this week, Irish rugby was handed a major shock with the news that Simon Zebo will be leaving Munster at the end of the season, with French outfit Racing 92 his expected destination.
For the 27-year-old full-back, that poses an important question – will we see him in Schmidt’s squad for the autumn Tests?
Will Schmidt opt to leave Zebo out of his next squad if he’s unlikely to be available when the 2019 World Cup rolls around?
Bumps and bruises
A number of high-profile Irishmen are set to miss their country’s upcoming clashes, creating a natural knock-on effect as far as selection is concerned.
Top of the list of absentees will be Garry Ringrose, who underwent shoulder surgery in July, and that opens up a number of opportunities for other centres.
Could Connacht’s Bundee Aki, who now qualifies for Ireland under the residency rule, receive his first call-up and could Ringrose’s absence see the likes of Ulster duo Luke Marshall and Stuart McCloskey, and Munster’s Rory Scannell, come into contention for a starting spot?
Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier and Munster hooker Niall Scannell are both also expected to miss out on the series through injury, opening up a host of opportunities for players previously on the fringes.
While they may not have laced up their boots too often at club level in recent weeks, there are some key men ready to play their part against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina.
Ireland’s most-capped hooker Rory Best was left sidelined by a hamstring injury in September but appears to have recovered, the 35-year-old coming off the bench in Ulster’s European Champions Cup defeat to La Rochelle last weekend.
The other intriguing piece of recovery news concerns Sean O’Brien, the flanker having returned to training with Leinster following the shoulder injury he sustained while on British & Irish Lions duty in the summer.
The 28-year-old is in with a chance of featuring against Ulster in the PRO14 this weekend and likely in with a chance of making Schmidt’s squad.