Wednesday 27 March 2019

How Ireland's players rated from the Rugby World Cup

Robbie Henshaw gets the top billing as Ruaidhri O'Connor ranks the performances of every member of Schmidt's World Cup squad

Robbie Henshaw was Ireland's best performer
Robbie Henshaw was Ireland's best performer
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The campaign ended in disappointment at the quarter-final stage, but here is how the Ireland players rated from the Rugby World Cup.

1  Robbie Henshaw

Returned from hamstring problem to play against Italy and took the France game by the scruff of the neck, putting in a phenomenal display. Consistently one of Ireland's most frequent and effective tacklers and carriers, his importance to the team is only growing. Has emerged as a leader. Age in 2019: 26

2 Rory Best

Showed his importance to the team time and time again, executing his primary role out of touch brilliantly while also being an effective force at the breakdown. Brilliant against France, he couldn't be blamed against Argentina. Deserved better.

Age in 2019: 37

3 Peter O'Mahony

You don't appreciate what you have until it's gone. O'Mahony so often set the tone for Ireland with his aggression and work rate and was badly missed. A fundamental part of this team and its leadership group. An Ireland captain in the making, if he can stay fit.

Age in 2019: 30

4 Jamie Heaslip

Made more tackles than any other Irish player and only Sean O'Brien carried the ball more frequently. Reserved his best performance for Argentina.

Age in 2019: 35

5 Paul O'Connell

The captain hauled his team back from the brink against Italy and then led them into a ferocious performance against France. For all of the players lost that day, the Munster legend's absence left a hole that nobody could fill.

Age in 2019: 39

6 Iain Henderson

Argentina targeted the big Ulster man and his lack of impact in Ireland's biggest game took away some of the sheen of his earlier performances. Like Henshaw, will be pillar of this team.

Age in 2019: 27

7 Jack McGrath

Unlucky to miss out on starting the quarter-final, the loosehead prop is currently a better player than Cian Healy who gets Ireland over the gainline but is not at the level he needs to be at. McGrath barely put a foot wrong and was missed against the Pumas.

Age in 2019: 30

8 Sean O'Brien

Ireland's top carrier and most effective player despite his suspension; he drops down the rankings because of the punch that cost his side dear. O'Brien's presence could have turned the Argentina game Ireland's way.

Age in 2019: 32

9 Rob Kearney

Scored three tries and rarely put a foot wrong despite coming into the tournament under an injury cloud and missing the Italy game with a glute strain. Exposed as the last line against Argentina and sometimes too predictable when returning the ball.

Age in 2019: 33

10 Keith Earls

Only he and Heaslip started every game and Earls delivered some breathtaking moments. Looked out on his feet and was partly responsible for the defensive malfunction against Argentina. Better suited to the wing.

Age in 2019: 32

11 Tommy Bowe

Came into the tournament under a cloud and left it on a stretcher, but in between he had a fine competition; particularly showed up when the going got tough against Italy. Age in 2019: 35

12 Jared Payne

Drew criticism, but his absence was felt against Italy and Argentina. Scored a try against Canada, but it was in defence where he was missed most.

Age in 2019: 34

13 Conor Murray

Scored an important try against France and played well that day, but in the two games when Ireland were in jeopardy Murray played poorly. His kicking against Argentina was below his usual standard, while he made too many mistakes against Italy.

Age in 2019: 30

14 Luke Fitzgerald

Based on his performance against Argentina, we should have seen more from Fitzgerald who cut the Pumas open and was responsible for dragging Ireland back into the game. Only started the opening game.

Age in 2019: 32

15 Mike Ross

The scrum was a weapon for Ireland throughout the tournament and even though Ross appeared to change his technique for Marcos Ayerza, the Corkman still managed to keep up his end of the bargain. Targeted in open play by the Pumas.

Age in 2019: 39

16 Devin Toner

Produced his best performance against France, but followed it by a poor display against Argentina when missed and soaked tackles cost his side.

Age in 2019: 33

17 Donnacha Ryan

Started the tournament in form and looked to have moved above Toner in the pecking order, but couldn't force his way past the Leinster man for the biggest games.

Age in 2019: 35

18 Richardt Strauss

Forced his way on to the bench for the two biggest games after playing well against Romania. Accurate out of touch, he couldn't make an impact against Argentina.

Age in 2019: 33

19 Nathan White

Provided stability off the bench each and every time he came on, although he was caught in open play against Argentina.

Age in 2019: 38

20 Johnny Sexton

Looked so good against Canada, but never recaptured that form. Poor against Italy, injury against France deprived him of an opportunity on the biggest stage. Desperately disappointing.

Age in 2019: 34

21 Cian Healy

Spent the entire summer trying to get fit after neck surgery and never truly made it. Couldn't make the impact of old.

Age in 2019: 32

22 Chris Henry

Topped the turnover count alongside O'Brien and Henderson and made an impact off the bench, but when he started against Argentina he was blown away by their back-row.

Age in 2019: 35

23 Ian Madigan

Played a full part in beating France, but couldn't back it up a week later in the biggest game of his career. Missed a crucial kick, while his overall game didn't hold up under pressure.

Age in 2019: 30

24 Jordi Murphy

Seemed to be the forgotten man until injury and suspension pitched him back on to the front line and he was under-powered for the task at hand.

Age in 2019: 28

25 Dave Kearney

Undermined a good tournament with a bad day at the office against Argentina where he missed a costly five tackles. Won't want to relive Cardiff.

Age in 2019: 30

26 Simon Zebo

Enjoyed himself against Canada and Romania before taking over at full-back against Italy. Wasn't great that day, but can count himself unlucky that it was his final involvement.

Age in 2019: 29

27 Eoin Reddan

Looked sharp against Romania, but barely featured in the rest of the tournament. Will feel he could have contributed more.

Age in 2019: 38

28 Sean Cronin

We still don't really know why Cronin, so often Ireland's best impact replacement, fell out of the squad for the France and Argentina games.

Age in 2019: 33

29 Paddy Jackson

Finished last season like a train, but lost out to Madigan despite looking so sharp against Romania.

Age in 2019: 27

30 Darren Cave

Played well against Romania but was clearly not considered a serious option.

Age in 2019: 32

31 Tadhg Furlong

Here for the experience. Can expect to play in the Six Nations.

Age in 2019: 26

The replacements

Rhys Ruddock had played one match in six months, so it was forgiveable that he was off the pace when he came off the bench. Mike McCarthy and Isaac Boss had whistle-stop trips.

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