The winners and losers as Joe Schmidt springs big surprises in Rugby World Cup squad
Joe Schmidt managed to throw the nation a curve ball with the timing and content of his 31-man squad for Japan later this month.
Having said after the win over Wales in Cardiff that this ties with the same period in 2015 as the toughest gig of his coaching career, here are the conversations he did and didn't want to have:
It's hard to know who let out the loudest whoop of delight at this news, Rhys or his oulfla Mike who would be quick to remind you how his son played lots of schools rugby as a seven – just to complement his time at six and eight in later life. Having missed the cut four years ago – he went out as a replacement after the carnage against France – this time he's in from the start in a call that will be welcomed widely. His experience of leading the Ireland tour to US and Japan two summers ago will he useful.
Schmidt's love of what Kieran Marmion has to offer seemed sure to remain unbroken, and in a two-horse race that looked like McGrath would not be loaded into a starting stall. So this is a departure for the coach, and terrific news for the Leinster nine whose defensive game worked in his favour.
His ticket was booked when his performances for Munster confirmed a man with lots of grunt. A big man and a big scrummager, the boarding pass was printed when they saw how quickly he settled into camp. Given he is in and Devin Toner is out – even if they are not like for like - Kleyn will be under huge pressure to perform. As will Tadhg Beirne. The man who made his way in the pro game with the Scarlets was always going to go, but for Schmidt suddenly to consider him big enough for lock forward is, well, interesting.
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By no means a certainty but his form for Munster had been compelling and this is a good shout. If Munster played him more at full back then he would have more Ireland caps.
Blessed to be on board. A very good player but with ordinary form and, unlike Will Addison, not too many strings to his bow.
The lead news item on everyone's report, the tallest man to play for Ireland has gone from L plate in his early career to first choice getaway driver by 2018, and now, clearly, dispensable. Currently removed from his best form his omission will be keenly felt by Rory Best, who appreciated the lineout caller's prowess more than most. Mostly this decision reflects the pressure Joe Schmidt is feeling to change parts on the car he thought previously were fully functional.
The move north from Leinster was all about getting to Japan, so this is a sickener for him. John Cooney could empathise, albeit in slightly different circumstances. Back row is always a mad scramble for seats and of the five selected only Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier would have had a sound night's sleep before the coach picked up his phone.
Not in the same news league as Toner but for Schmidt to dump a man he has relied on without question as back up to Conor Murray is a huge call. He'll be hoping that two men at nine might not cover the demands of what lies ahead, but he will have expected to be on board from the off.
Woefully short on game time after back surgery and with a clatter of lads also minus lots of minutes – Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton, Joey Carbery – perhaps Schmidt felt this was pushing it. Addison is the most versatile back in the squad and will be missed.