The inside track on Ireland's World Cup squad
Alan Quinlan assesses how the key figures in Joe Schmidt’s drive for glory are shaping up and reveals why Dave Kearney’s swashbuckling late charge for inclusion has been inspiring
The X-factor is there, although there has been criticism for blasé approach. Has become better defensively, needs to pop up more with ball in hand. Deserves his place. Good kicking game and can cover full-back. Need to see more energy from him.
The inside track on Ireland's World Cup squaD
Alan Quinlan assesses how the key figures in Joe Schmidt's drive for glory are shaping up and reveals why Dave Kearney's
swashbuckling late charge for inclusion has been inspiring
International Rugby Newsletter
Huge work rate, very strong scrummager, he's an integral part of this squad. Brilliant at breakdown, physically and mentally tough and has matured into a leader in this group. Only worries are that darts can be off and he is not the quickest, but hookers are not there for their pace.
Incredible power and ability to break gain-line. Brilliant ball-carrier, very hard to stop and always big impact, especially off the bench. Could play him in the back-row, he's that quick.
He is not as strong a scrummager as Best, darts can go astray sometimes but could have big World Cup. He's the No 2 hooker in the competition.
The bolter in the squad. His size is his biggest advantage - we haven't produced that many big tightheads in recent years. His inexperience is his weakness, and it is a big ask to get him to cover loosehead. Has a big future ahead of him and his career will be hugely boosted by inclusion in the World Cup squad.
World class. Scrummaging improved in recent years; you often got the feeling he was making such an impression around the field that the scrum was secondary. Biggest concern is the neck injury. Tough, abrasive guy. We need him on the park for France.
Incredibly resilient. Sometimes his performances have been questioned. You don't see a huge impact and then you look back on videos and the amount of work he does is incredible. Doesn't look like he is setting the world on fire at times, but he is getting things done. Nothing fazes him, but sometimes we need to see him more angry.
Improving in leaps and bounds, a modern-day beast. Reminds me a lot of Stephen Ferris, can get through defenders. Exciting thing is he has a little bit more to go. You would like to see him get more aggressive - physically he is great asset for the squad and his flexibility is also a huge plus.
A guy who has got the most out of himself in the last few years; overcame his illness issues to be a World Cup player. Very good ball-carrier, good at breakdown. Lacks a bit of pace but can play across the back-row and you can rely on him.
Not as good a ball-carrier as Cian Healy but that's not a real criticism, he just has such a hard act to follow. But he is improving all the time, has learnt from the master ahead of him in Leinster. A very good scrummager. Huge work ethic, gets around the park.
Great awareness for a gap, but that opening is not always there at international level. Will have learned a lot from his battle with Justin Tipuric in the clash with Wales at the Aviva a few weeks ago. Tough days like that can be the making of a player. Runs a great line, he is young and will keep improving.
Has had so many difficulties with injury. Hard to defend against, he's so quick off the mark. He is so strong over the ball. Good for two or three turnovers in every game. Not an out-and-out seven, sometimes gets caught between being the ball-carrier and tracking the ball. But a world-class player whether it is at 6, 7 or 8.
Mental toughness and leadership are his biggest assets; a priceless figure. His presence on field and in dressing-room is key. Not the best ball-carrier but always makes the hard carries. He sets the tone for everything Joe Schmidt wants done.
Younger version of O'Connell, his leadership qualities are obvious. Good at breakdown, covers a lot of ground, a man for the hard yards. Distribution an area he would look for improvement in but he is not afraid to truck the ball up and recycle. Tough operator.
Cornerstone of the pack in the Schmidt era, started that with Leinster and brought it to the Irish team. He is vital to this team. Can get worn out - he's probably a 55-60 minute man at this stage. But he has done remarkably well for a guy who wasn't wanted in Munster. He never gave up.
He's your typical old-school rugby player. You can kick him all over the place and he will just get back up. Covers a huge amount of ground around the field. Has a real eye for running on to passes and makes hard carries. Worked so hard to come back from injury.
Has hit the heights with Leinster, brilliant at the breakdown. Lineouts are good; he had one or two timing issues in warm-up games but that will come right with more time with the squad having been out for such long periods. Dependable, always sniffing a break.
Height and lineout ability are obvious strengths but has developed his game in recent years - has a great ability to wrap guys up in the tackle around the fringes. A lot more physical, he can be a real nuisance, he's hard to take down. Has become more of a weapon, has done a fantastic job for Ireland.
He's a leader, former captain with Waikato, benefited from his move to Connacht, where he had game-time to impress Schmidt. Question mark about age and Test-level ability but Schmidt has always been an admirer.
Needs to rediscover the form which made him one of the world's best finishers but I have full faith in him to deliver when it matters most. Huge experience with the Lions as well. Mentally very tough. He's in my team for the French match.
Very skilful player, he's earned the right to be there. Runs brilliant lines and is a natural centre. Lacking a yard of pace but compensates with good footwork and will get you over the gain-line.
Has had to overcome so many injuries to get here. Explosive and powerful, can get caught out by the bigger players but showed against Wales how he can defend. Has that natural talent to step and steer past defenders. Has the X-factor.
Another one who burst on the scene as a youngster. Very physical, sometimes over-zealous. Like Earls, we haven't seen the best of him due to injuries. An advantage in having a left-footed kicker on the field. Can always find the gap but we need to see him making the outside breaks.
Seems like he has been around for years, doesn't it? Strong and athletic, loves a physical game. Offloading needs improving. Exciting talent, you'd love to see him take more ownership of the ball. Needs to use his feet more and get some offloads.
Has improved and looks more composed than when he first came on the scene. Experience and maturity is what he needs. He had a very good season with Ulster and looks more confident. Needs to back himself a bit more.
Integral part of 2014 Six Nations title. Is quick but doesn't have searing pace. Great ability to get through tight situations, very physical and runs hard. Great recovery from injury, left Schmidt with no choice but to include him. Inspiring to see players taking ownership of a situation like that.
I'd like to see him hit the line more, the channel outside the 13 in addition to counter-attacking and scoring more. The talent is there. Good kicking game, so dependable under high ball and awareness across the field. A world-class full-back.
Has all the skills. Incredibly confident player whose versatility makes him such a key member of this squad. Not the biggest but throws himself into the tackle. No issue coming off the bench and playing 12. He has the skill-set to cover the scrum-half position but you would hope it doesn't come to that.
Aaron Smith is probably the best nine in the world, Murray is the biggest challenger. Big defender. His distribution is top-notch and kicking is out of the top drawer. Key figure in our World Cup bid.
Was left with the impossible task of filling Brian O'Driscoll's boots. A converted full-back, he is a different player to Drico, but he has delivered in a different way. Tough on ball, runs good lines. We want to see more line-breaks and needs to be a bit more slick in passing.
Mr Dependable, can pick up the pace of the game really well. Very vocal, very good positioning, doesn't snipe like Murray but has huge experience and zips the ball away. Just buzzes around the place, really important if we need to chase a game. Vital member of his squad.
If he is on song, Ireland are on song. Needs to get quality ball. Mentally very strong, a real winner - world-class. Has missed a few kicks before but deals with them better than before. Loves to attack and ideal man to deliver Schmidt's plan.