Wednesday 21 February 2018

Which high-profile players are in danger of missing out on World Cup selection?

Cian Healy
Cian Healy
David Kelly

David Kelly

The World Cup - truly an international event to coin an errant phrase and one in which all the world's leading players are desperate to feature.

After all, to borrow from another verbal miscreant, it is a perennial problem that a World Cup happens only every four years.

And, as a fretful Cian Healy may be beginning to realise, especially if his injury complications are as severe as being prescribed via bush telegraph, time could be running out on his battle to regain full fitness ahead of the September kick-off.

At least he still has a race to run; for some, like Ireland's talented but luckless centre Stuart Olding, the race is already over. Others, like the inestimably inane Dylan Hartley, have only themselves to blame.

One thing is certain - some big names will be forced, like billions of other mere mortals, to watch it all unfurl from the sidelines. It is a race against time for some; a race already run for others.

Cian Healy (Ireland)

Irish supporters are not alone in their anxious wait to punch the air in delight should Healy declare his fitness - if only because the player himself has seemingly been unable to do so.

Apparent nerve issues arising from May's successful neck surgery have purportedly hindered the loosehead's ability to fling his formidable frame into the World Cup build-up.

An appearance at today's open training session in Irish Independent Park would appease his many fans.

Gordon D'Arcy (Ireland)

The veteran centre has already announced his retirement - all that remains to be revealed is which stage he will bow out on.

It could be a World Cup knock-out clash or a grim night in Rodney Parade - Joe Schmidt will make the final, decisive call.

"Some lads will be planning for other World Cups," the player told us here last month. "For me, this is my coup de grace. This will be the epitaph. This is it."

Jonathan Davies (Wales)

Better known to general sports fans in this country as the man who replaced Brian O'Driscoll for the decisive final Lions Test in Sydney two years ago, the Clermont centre wrecked his knee on club duty in the Top 14 last May.

He will definitely miss the World Cup despite having the option to defer surgery until after the showpiece. As he sees it, he may still make the 2019 version rather than running the risk of being forced into premature retirement.

Manu Tuilagi (England)

If England coach Stuart Lancaster was hoping that the Samoan-born Leicester centre could make an impression in 2015, then he was certainly not mistaken.

The errant, occasionally eruptive volcano tarnished the last World Cup for his country; at least this time around, he had the grace to do so before the tournament actually kicked off. He was booted out after it was revealed he grabbed a taxi driver by the throat, kicked his wing mirror, and then pushed two female police officers hard in the chest.

Dylan Hartley (England)

The Northampton Sinner once more demonstrated his remarkably uncomic timing by picking up the latest in a series of lengthy suspensions which left Lancaster with no option but to omit him from his World Cup squad.

Revealing his remarkable propensity to use a variety of body parts - fingers, tongue, mouth etc - to earn him a justified "bad boy" rap, his latest crime was to strike Jamie Joseph with his head. A hot head, you could say.

Jean De Villiers (South Africa)

The former Munster player's agonising screams pierced through our television screens last November when his left knee joint was dislocated when a mound of Welsh beef collapsed upon him.

Rugby feared the very worst for him then but, unsurprisingly for those who have witnessed his grim fortitude at first hand, he will hope to frank an amazing return to fitness against Argentina on Saturday week.

Maxime Mermoz (France)

The fleet-footed French star was merely the latest to fall foul of the consistently inconsistent selection foibles of one Philippe Saint-André, who announced his panel with indecent haste as far back as early June.

Injuries could yet see him gain from a rival's pain. As of now, he will be absent.

"I can't understand it, I can't accept it," bemoaned the exotic three-time European champion. He is not alone. Ask Teddy Thomas. Or Camille Lopez. Or…

Aaron Cruden (New Zealand)

The reigning world champions managed to pull a decent trick on the rest of us last time out, skittling their first three out-halves and recruiting a pivot who had to give up a fishin' and drinkin' holiday to steer them to ultimate success.

So perhaps there won't be too many of their rivals lamenting the absence of an All Black out-half four years on. Apart from the Cruden family, of course.

The Chiefs' ten will miss out with a knee injury but even without him, Steve Hansen may contemplate bringing four out-halves to England after Lima Sopoaga shone against South Africa in Johannesburg last Saturday. Typical.

Todd Clever (USA)

Or not so clever. Probably the most recognisable member of the Stars and Stripes contingent - Devin Toner saw stars, if not stripes, when on the receiving end of his tip tackle on tour last year.

But not in the World Cup. It would have been his fourth tournament but the former captain skipped two training sessions and coach Mike Tolkin didn't hesitate in ditching the forward for "multiple squad conduct violations".

Rodrigo Capo Ortega (Uruguay)

His country would not have made an impression on the World Cup but the Castres second-row might have done - his absence is shrouded in mystery,

Initially, it was suspected that his club were holding him to ransom by forcing him to miss out or else suffer contractual consequences. The truth seems to be more prosaic, with Capo Ortega wanting to remain home to witness the birth of his first child. His coach, too, has been left holding the baby...

Irish Independent

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