Losing to Italy with an experienced Ireland XV would be "catastrophic" for Andy Farrell, says former international hooker Bernard Jackman.
Ireland face the Azzurri in Rome on Saturday looking to bounce back from defeats to Wales and France in the Guinness Six Nations.
Calls for the inclusion of more uncapped players and recalls for some in-form fringe players have gone largely unheeded by Farrell, who insists he cannot play guessing games with untested hopefuls.
Yesterday the head coach confirmed his 36-man squad for the upcoming game and despite a Guinness Pro14 clean sweep for the provinces, did not include any new names.
The hosts, now under Franco Smith, are on a 29-game championship losing streak.
"Italy are making strides, but not to get ahead of ourselves, if we were to go and lose over there with an experienced team it would be catastrophic," Jackman told RTÉ Sport.
"He'll want to get the team into shape and get a bit of cohesion for Scotland [14 March] on, who now look like a real threat and challenge.
"Farrell is under pressure now and he’s going to go with an experienced team to try and salvage a Six Nations, which, at the moment, looks like we are heading for a fourth or fifth place finish."
Asked about the failure to call up some of the players who are making waves in the Pro14, Jackman said: "I am [surprised]. I think there was an opportunity to bring in some form players from the provinces.
"The uncapped [Munster back row] Gavin Coombes, every time he plays, he just makes a statement and with Peter O'Mahony being suspended, I think that was an opportunity lost.
"He looks like somebody who could feature for Ireland, particularly with [Caelan] Doris being out. He has that explosivity that maybe we’re lacking a little bit.
"[John] Cooney and [Jack] Carty are capped already but I just think it must be so hard for them, being first choice for their province, playing well for [Ulster and Connacht] and seeing three of the four half-backs against France not being first choice and not performing, and [they are] still outside of the group.
"The big thing is that the selections are logical and I think there is certainly a feeling in Irish rugby at the moment that it’s not really clear what Andy Farrell is looking for. That’s fine, he’s trying to find his way himself.
"But when you are outside the squad and playing well and you see players who potentially aren’t taking their opportunities in the squad or aren’t starting for their province it certainly is frustrating."
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