Saturday 17 November 2018

Brendan Fanning: 'There's one silver lining to Ireland's injury cloud - and it's boosting World Cup development'

Joe Schmidt has plenty of selection options as we move onto the big Novembers tests

3 November 2018; Jordan Larmour of Ireland on the way to scoring his side's 4th try during the International Rugby match between Ireland and Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
3 November 2018; Jordan Larmour of Ireland on the way to scoring his side's 4th try during the International Rugby match between Ireland and Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

At the start of the month Jordan Larmour wouldn’t have been banking on this level of involvement at 15 for the first two weeks of the Guinness Series, but that’s the silver lining on the injury cloud.

So Rob Kearney has to rehab his shoulder – he should be fine to face the All Blacks -  opening the door for Larmour to get quality game time in what surely will be his best position.

At the risk of reading from the PR manual this is exactly what he needs. And the Pumas will be a step up from Italy in Chicago. If we’re filtering everything through the World Cup prism then it’s no harm to have Kearney and Conor Murray temporarily out of the picture a year away from Japan.

So good news for Larmour, but disappointing for Will Addison that he will be looking at the US Eagles game at the end of the month for his next run. Two from four would be a decent enough start for him give he is the latest recruit to the squad, but Joe Schmidt is a fan and Addison’s form would have been interesting to assess against Argentina.

John Cooney will be feeling a lot more put out. He is well ahead of Addison having been capped first two summers ago and he would have hoped to make the bench on Saturday. You’d expect Schmidt to run with Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath again the following week, against New Zealand, leaving Cooney a likely starter against the US. With Murray unfit, book-ending the series was less than Cooney was aiming for coming into the season.

It’s hard to know what return Iain Henderson was pitching for but he’ll be delighted to get the run ahead of Devin Toner, albeit knowing he needs to pull up a few trees. Schmidt’s rationale is to get to next week’s selection with five fresh second rows to choose from. That will be a luxury. And even moreso when Jean Kleyn comes on stream next summer. There is no doubt that Schmidt wants the South African as part of his World Cup squad but if his current quintet are fit then it will be painful to decide who to leave out.

Shifting Tadhg Beirne to the back row only shifts the traffic jam somewhere else, but it’s an exercise worth doing. In reshuffling the back row contingent from Chicago to this weekend the coach gets to see all eight in action knowing that he has Beirne, the form all-round player in the country, and rested this weekend, to be slotted in.

So first up the target is to win on Saturday, to give Ireland their seventh win from eight Tests against the Pumas since losing in the final Pool game of the 2007 World Cup, and second is to have as broad a canvas as possible for the All Blacks. Technically that will include Rob Herring but his return from injury with Ulster has cost him a run in one of the opening two games.

For a player who did so well in Australia last summer this is a delay he didn’t need, but while the likes of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray are locked in to every selection once they are fit, regardless of form, captain Rory Best is not in that category. The fewer in the group the better.

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