Ireland legend urges Andy Farrell to include ‘rare talent’ in Six Nations squad

Colin Newboult
Sam Prendergast in action for Ireland U20 in 2023.

Sam Prendergast in action for Ireland U20 in 2023.

Ireland legend Keith Wood believes that it would be a mistake for Andy Farrell not to include the player that has been tipped as Johnny Sexton’s long-term successor in his Six Nations squad.

Young fly-half Sam Prendergast made a name for himself in the country after starring in the age-grade side’s march to the Grand Slam in early 2023.

He took those talents back to Leinster and featured in a couple of United Rugby Championship encounters before Ireland reached the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship in July.

More game time

With Sexton retiring following the Rugby World Cup, it has opened up a space at Leinster with Ciaran Frawley, Prendergast and the Byrne brothers, Harry and Ross, competing to be the first choice fly-half.

At the moment, none of the more experienced playmakers have nailed down the shirt, which may help the 20-year-old ahead of the Six Nations.

The youngster played in his first interpro game on New Year’s Day, starting as the Leinstermen succumbed to Ulster 22-21.

Despite the end result, Prendergast impressed and outshone Harry Byrne, who struggled when he came on for the age-grade star in the final quarter.

As a result, Wood wants to see him in Farrell’s Six Nations squad when it is named later this month.

“He’s a fairly rare talent. I do think that he has a lot of rough edges, (but) I would definitely want to see him in the Six Nations squad,” the former Munster hooker told the Off The Ball podcast.

“The extended squad definitely. He needs to see how much further up he has to go and he needs that door open for him.

“It isn’t that he hasn’t earned it, it’s that he has the talent to go through it, if it is open for him.

“Why would we wait another year, year-and-a-half? I’m not a fan of that. If he’s robust enough and strong enough to be able to deal with it, I think he offers something different, and I like that.”

Blue-tinted glasses

Wood’s view does not extend to Ulster and their former back-row Stephen Ferris, who is irritated by the hype surrounding Prendergast.

“I’m not naming the media outlet but during the week there was all this chat about, should Sam Prendergast be given the opportunity to play for Ireland in the Six Nations and to be honest, I was listening to it going, ‘this is so Leinster blue-tinted glasses sort of stuff I’m listening to’. It actually struck a nerve with me,” he told RTE.

“It was very annoying and frustrating to listen to. This is a young guy who undoubtedly has talent and potential but he has to prove himself in big games and he has to prove that he can manage his team around.

“I thought he did that reasonably well but it doesn’t help when his opposite man, Billy Burns, ended up getting man of the match and controlled things very nicely for Ulster.

“I know [Burns] went off injured in the last 10 minutes and [Nathan] Doak came on and did really well but it almost felt like the whole lead-up to this game that it was just a given for Leinster to win it.”

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