Sunday 22 September 2019

Nine Irish players who could have their World Cup dreams broken

Joe Schmidt must cut nine more players from squad. Photo: Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt must cut nine more players from squad. Photo: Sportsfile

Des Berry

The hour is approaching when Joe Schmidt will have to share bad news with nine more players as he finalises his World Cup plans.

For all of the conjecture and intrigue, the coach will be swayed more by what he sees inside the bubble than outside of it.

These are the nearly nine that could have their dreams broken.   

1. JACK McGRATH

The Leinster loose head lost his way in the last year, or so, and the off-season was his opportunity to revive. However, Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne has been on fire for some time and has an explosive element favourable to bench duty behind Cian Healy.   

2. NIALL SCANNELL

The selection of Rob Herring to start ahead of the Munster hooker was a sign of what could be to come. There was a reprieve in Herring’s back spasm which Scannell did not quite do enough push ahead of the Ulsterman or the dynamic impact of Sean Cronin. 

3. TADHG BEIRNE

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Schmidt’s choice of the Kildare man as the loose-forward replacement against Italy was a positive outcome. The two turnovers in quick fashion were eye-catching for the X-Factor forward. He just doesn’t fit into the strict Irish system, preferring to roam the fringes with a licence to poach at will.

4. TOMMY O’DONNELL

The Munster openside is one of Ireland’s better athletes, Rhys Ruddock citing his engine as noteworthy.

It is O’Donnell’s lack of versatility as an openside that will work against him in the scramble for places.

5. RHYS RUDDOCK

There would appear to be a straight one-on-one against Jordi Murphy for that jack-of-all-trades loose forward in the squad. Ruddock may just lose out to Murphy’s consistent big game experience in all three positions and as the next best lineout option in the back row behind Peter O’Mahony.

6. LUKE McGRATH

The Leinster half-back has been denied the right to truly challenge Kieran Marmion’s ranking by a number of injuries in key moments of recent seasons.

He did not look quite as sharp as he needed to against Italy and Marmion might just hold on to be Conor Murray’s understudy.

7. ROSS BYRNE

The Leinster out-half is unlikely to see the game time he has to have to give Jack Carty a run for his money. The ankle injury to Joey Carbery will make a third ten a necessity against Scotland in Ireland’s the opening game of the World Cup.

8. CHRIS FARRELL

The fact is Will Addison, Keith Earls and Jordan Larmour could play at outside centre, at a push, probably leaving three slots available for true midfielders. Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose will travel on merit and Addison’s versatility anywhere from thirteen-to-fifteen could be decisive.  

9. DAVE KEARNEY

A Joe Schmidt favourite, just like Jordi Murphy, the Louth man has done everything in his power to be ‘the bolter.’ It is just the Man of the Match influence of Andrew Conway against Italy gives the Munster back-three operator the edge.

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