Subscriber OnlySix Nations

Leinster lock Ross Molony to move to Bath at end of season as hopes of Ireland call-up fade

Garry Ringrose pressing for inclusion in Ireland matchday squad for Saturday’s clash with England at Twickenham as he regains full fitness

Ross Molony, the long-serving Leinster lock, is expected to join Bath on a three-year contract at the end of this season. The 29-year-old has been a mainstay of the province for the last decade, making 172 appearances, but his minutes have been reduced this season and, with the emergence of Joe McCarthy and the impending arrival of RG Snyman, the offer of a three-year deal is a shrewd piece of business by Johann van Graan’s club.

A product of St Michael’s and a renowned lineout operator and caller, Molony has regularly played more than 1,000 minutes for Leinster over the last decade since making his debut against Zebre Parma in February 2015. Last season he started in 18 of 23 appearances, which amounted to 1,450 minutes. By contrast, this season he has so far been restricted to five starts in his 10 appearances, amounting to 469 minutes.

Molony has freely admitted to harbouring an intense desire to play for Ireland, and he came very close on occasions, but, with McCarthy’s emergence also putting him further down the international pecking order, the 29-year-old has had to weigh this up with the security of a three-year deal and the prospect of playing more regularly at Bath.

Meanwhile Craig Casey, Jeremy Loughman, Jordan Larmour, Tom Stewart and Nick Timoney appear to have all emerged unscathed after playing for their provinces in an Irish clean sweep in the URC. They were among the Irish squad which reassembled on Sunday night in advance of next Saturday’s crunch 2024 Guinness Six Nations round four game against England at Twickenham.


On seemingly regaining full fitness, Garry Ringrose will be pressing hard for inclusion in the matchday squad at Twickenham and looks a likely inclusion at number 23 in another 6-2 split on the bench, but there remains a greater doubt around Hugo Keenan’s full recovery from the knee injury which ruled him out of the win over Wales last weekend. If he doesn’t recover, Ciarán Frawley is likely to remain at full-back.

Ryan Baird is also expected to resume full training from the start of the week after sitting out last Thursday’s open session with a back spasm, while Iain Henderson is to link up with the squad after undergoing treatment for his dislocated toe.

As expected, England have been boosted by the return of their first-choice halfbacks, Northampton scrumhalf Alex Mitchell and Harlequins outhalf Marcus Smith, both of whom were named in the updated 36-man squad announced in advance of Steve Borthwick’s players assembling in Pennyhill Park on Sunday night.

Smith had seemingly been identified as first-choice number 10 following the decision by former captain Owen Farrell to step aside from international rugby and then to relocate to Paris with Racing 92 from next season onwards.

But the game-breaking, 25-year-old Smith has not featured in the Six Nations to date after sustaining a calf injury at England’s pre-tournament training camp in Girona. George Ford was then named as England’s 10, performing solidly against Italy and Wales before enduring a trying afternoon against Scotland in Murrayfield last Saturday week.

Smith could also come into the equation at full-back – where he was often employed during the World Cup – but the likelihood is that he will be restored to the starting outhalf role against Ireland ahead of Ford when Borthwick announces his selection on Thursday.

Mitchell sustained a knee injury before the defeat at Murrayfield which initially threatened to sideline him for the remainder of the tournament, but he has also been recalled. The dangerous Northampton scrumhalf had been one of England’s stand-out players in their opening wins over Italy and Wales, and is one of three scrumhalves in the squad, alongside Ben Spencer and Danny Care, who is in line to win his 100th cap against Ireland.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times