Sunday 26 May 2019

Five players who were unlucky to miss out on Ireland's summer tour to Australia

Sammy Arnold (left), Rhys Ruddock (centre) and Luke McGrath (right).
Sammy Arnold (left), Rhys Ruddock (centre) and Luke McGrath (right).
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Joe Schmidt has announced his 32-man Ireland squad to tour Australia for a three-test tour next month, with Ross Byrne and Tadhg Beirne in line for their first international caps.

Although the trip comes at the end of a long season - with Leinster set to conclude the club campaign against Beirne's Scarlets side in Saturday's PRO 14 final - the prospect of becoming the first Irish team to win a southern hemisphere test series since 1979 is an enticing one for the players.

Schmidt has opted to pick as close to a full strength squad as possible, injuries aside, with key players such as Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray and Tadhg Furlong all included.

It is a formidable squad that the Ireland head coach will select from for the first test on June 9, but there are a couple of players who will consider themselves unlucky to be holidaying next month rather than travelling to Australia.

Here are five players who were unfortunate to miss the cut this evening.

Luke McGrath

The Leinster number nine has enjoyed a back-and-forth battle with Connacht's Kieran Marmion for the right to back-up Conor Murray on the Ireland bench, but a troublesome knee injury in recent weeks seems to have knocked McGrath down the pecking order. Schmidt has opted for Ulster scrum-half John Cooney instead, whose superb form up north saw him scoop the province's Player of the Year award.

Murray's presence is unquestionable, Cooney is there on merit but after winning the Champions Cup off the back of a strong season, you could definitely argue that McGrath deserves a place in the squad.

Sammy Arnold

The 21-year-old still has plenty to learn but his tigerish defence - exhibited when he denied James Lowe a certain try with a shoestring tackle at the RDS last weekend - highlights just how much potential the Munster centre has. His inclusion had been mooted in pre-announcement predictions, but Schmidt's decision to just take three centres leaves Arnold on the outside looking in. He should pick up his first cap this autumn.

Rhys Ruddock

Another player who will be cursing his injury luck. Ruddock was Leinster's standout player of the season until he badly tore his hamstring against Exeter at Sandy Park in December. The back row did brilliantly to make it back in double quick time to face Saracens on Easter Sunday in the Champions Cup quarter-final, but picked up another knock that kept him out for another spell. Unfortunately for Ruddock, with so much competition in his position, he just doesn't have enough rugby in his legs at this stage of the season.

James Tracey and Niall Scannell

We'll cover the two hookers in one go. Captain Rory Best and Sean Cronin were obvious choices, but Tracy and Scannell will feel aggrieved that Ulster's Herring - who admittedly is a Schmidt favourite - nudged in ahead of them. All three contenders are back-ups for their provinces, with Rhys Marshall getting the nod for Munster in a number of big games recently, so there isn't a whole lot separating them. Ultimately, the third choice hooker is unlikely to see much game time on tour, but try telling that to the two players omitted.

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