‘Rob is a great player for us’ – Farrell backs Herring at hooker again

IRELAND HEAD COACH Andy Farrell has underlined Rob Herring’s importance to his team after recalling the Ulster hooker for Sunday’s Six Nations clash with Scotland.

Farrell has made three changes to his Ireland XV to face the Scots in Edinburgh, with Herring coming back in at hooker after Rónan Kelleher had a chance to impress there last time out against Italy.

Kelleher has to be content with a place on the bench for the visit to Murrayfield, with Farrell highlighting the qualities Herring brings as the starting hooker.

“Rob is a great player for us,” said Farrell this afternoon. “He’s a big leader in the pack as far as set-piece is concerned. He is very accurate in that regard.

“His work-rate goes unseen quite a bit as well as far as his line running and his numbers as far as rucking is concerned. He’s an important part of our pack and he’s going to lead us straight from the start.

“Then you look at what we’ve got on the bench, we’ve got a strong, dynamic bench that is hopefully going to pay off for us towards the end of the game.”

Farrell has opted to stick with Jamison Gibson-Park at scrum-half for the third consecutive Six Nations game, with Conor Murray returning from a hamstring injury on the bench.

The Ireland boss praised Leinster man Gibson-Park for his impact as the starting nine against France and Italy.

“Conor hasn’t played for five weeks, first and foremost, and Jamison has been playing really well so he deserves his start,” said Farrell of that decision.

“Jamison has progressed. He was new to international rugby and, although his international career has been quite short, he has had some pretty big experiences like going away to Twickenham. He is more comfortable in his role around the side.

Gibson-Park retains the number nine shirt. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“He understands what it takes to be a top-class international scrum-half and deal with the pressures of the game and understands the difference between the club game and the international game so he is thriving in the role.

“What does he bring? He brings tempo and a little bit of off-the-cuff type feel to the game. He plays what’s in front of him and he is dynamic, he has good footwork and he can ask questions of any type of defence. And his game control is pretty good on the back of that so it is a nice package to have.”

Cian Healy returns to the starting XV at loosehead prop in place of Dave Kilcoyne, while Jordan Larmour also drops onto the bench as the experienced Keith Earls returns on the right wing.

Earls scored a try off the bench against Italy having replaced the injured Larmour at half time and Farrell stressed that the 33-year-old remains a key player.

“His know-how, his organisation of the backline in all different aspects of the play,” said Farrell of Earls’ qualities. “He is certainly a leader in many regards of backfield play and edge defence play.

“He is great under the high ball, he is still as quick and sharp as ever. There is good competition with Jacob [Stockdale] coming back as well.”

Farrell is excited about the impact Ireland’s bench can make, with Kilcoyne, Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, and Jack Conan ready to make an impression up front.

“It is more and more so these days becoming a full squad game and those guys will certainly make an impact,” said Farrell.

“We’re super excited about the bench coming on and making a difference. Some of those guys will be really disappointed not to make the starting side but they will make a difference to the performance, there is no doubt about that.”

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