Which of Ireland's 2016 Six Nations newcomers really set down a marker for the future?

CJ Stander, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier and Stuart McCloskey made their debuts during the championship

CJ Stander, Ultan Dillane, Ireland

CJ Stander and Ultan Dillane ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

After the shaky start to this year's Six Nations, Joe Schmidt will be quietly pleased with the final third placed finish that the team managed. 

That is more to do with the case that Ireland are in transition after the chastening World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina.

While many will feel even more younger players could have been given an opportunity to stake a claim during this year's Six Nations, the likes of Ultan Dillane and Stuart McCloskey did see action, as well as Munster's CJ Stander who became eligible for Ireland before the tournament.

 

 

Listen into Gavin Duffy's analysis of Ireland's final Six Nations match on the podcast player:

CJ Stander

One of the most impressive performers for Ireland throughout this year's tournament - and not just in the new cap stakes - he caught the eye on social media for singing the Irish anthem at the start of the opening draw with Wales.

But of far more importance for the South Africa-born back-row was how well he fitted into the team and finished the tournament with 79 carries which is more than any other Irish player.

Indeed, he made it into our Six Nations team of the tournament as chosen by Chris Jordan, one of two Ireland players to make the cut.

The one great positive is that he is still just 25, which should well see him remain a key figure in the four-year cycle towards the 2019 World Cup.

Ultan Dillane

Another player who fans learned more about as the Six Nations progressed, the Connacht second row caught the eye with his cameo against England and ended up playing a part in the final two games against Italy and Scotland.

As Chris pointed out of his performance in the England defeat, the 22-year-old was "breaking tackles at will" and helped put the opposition on the back foot.

Expect him to remain a regular figure in the squads to come, where he will be vying with the likes of Iain Henderson, Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan for the lock positions.

Josh van der Flier

A winner of caps against England and Italy, the Leinster flanker was not subbed off in either game and "put in a promising display in Twickenham" as Chris pointed out, coming close to scoring a try.

The 22-year-old has certainly put himself in the conversation for future squads with competent displays, and along with Dillane, was one of the players ex-Ireland captain Keith Wood would like to see get more opportunities to show what he is capable of.

Josh van der Flier ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Stuart McCloskey

The Ulster centre has been excellent at provincial level and had one shot at Six Nations action as a starter in the defeat to England.

Lining up at inside centre, he did enough to impress another legendary centre in Off The Ball's premier rugby correspondent Brian O'Driscoll, who deemed the 23-year-old "deserving of another chance" to build his case at international level.

Schmidt still appears to favour the Payne-Henshaw partnership, but the calls for McCloskey will continue to become louder if he continues his progress provincially and carries that into the Ireland setup.

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