A Look At The Strength In Depth Ireland Now Has In Each Position

Teams don’t win World Cups, squads do.

Ever since Ireland were dumped out of the 2015 Rugby World Cup at the quarter final stages by Argentina, the emphasis has been put on building a squad with strength in depth across every position.

Ireland have always been competitive, regularly producing world class talent, but they have struggled in previous years in some positions as soon as a few injuries started to pile up.

That however, has changed thanks to Joe Schmidt and his team, who have taken a completely different approach, blooding in a number of players in recent seasons, building the kind of depth they’ve always been after.

Let’s have a detailed, but realistic, look at each position and what Ireland have available.

Loosehead

Jack McGrath
Cian Healy
Dave Kilcoyne

Reserves:
James Cronin
Rodney Ah You
Denis Buckley

Absolutely no worries here whatsoever with three very capable looseheads in McGrath, Healy and Kilcoyne. Beyond that there isn’t a lot of caps, but Andrew Porter can also switch from tight to loose if needs be.

Hooker

Rory Best
Niall Scannell
Rob Herring
James Tracy
Sean Cronin
Rhys Marshall (2019)

It remains to be seen whether or not Rory Best will still be captain come 2019 considering he’ll be 37  by then, but either way there’s plenty of options after coming through. Niall Scannell and Rob Herring looked very impressive against Australia and we all know how good Sean Cronin can be.

Tighthead

Tadgh Furlong
John Ryan
Andrew Porter
Marty Moore

Reserves:
Finlay Bealham
Stephen Archer

We never thought we’d see the day where Ireland would have an embarrassment of riches at tighthead. Furlong is arguably the best in the world in his position right now and John Ryan is one of the best scrummagers around. Porter will also only get better, while Ulster bringing Marty Moore home adds another option.

Second-row

James Ryan
Devin Toner
Iain Henderson
Tadhg Beirne
Ultan Dillane

Reserves:
Billy Holland
Quinn Roux
Kieran Treadwell
Jean Kleyn (2019)

Things looked a bit worrying here when Donncha Ryan left, but with James Ryan and Tadhg Beirne after coming through, Ireland now have plenty of options in the engine room.

Back-row

CJ Stander
Peter O’Mahony
Dan Leavy
Sean O’Brien
Jack Conan
Rhys Ruddock
Josh van der Flier
Jordi Murphy

Reserves:
Jack O’Donoghue
Max Deegan
Tommy O’Donnell
Nick Timoney

Is there any point in even looking at the back-row? Ireland’s riches here are incredible, with their current starting back-row of O’Mahony, Leavy and Stander among the best in the world. There’s also the small matter of Sean O’Brien, who will hopefully regain full fitness next season.

Scrumhalf

Conor Murray
Kieran Marmion
Luke McGrath
John Cooney

To be honest we’d be slightly worried here. Not that Marmion, McGrath or Cooney are bad players, it’s just Murray is so good. The Munster star is probably the best scrumhalf in the world right now and is so important. Still though, Ireland have depth they can rely on here, just maybe not in a Rugby World Cup quarter final.

Outhalf

Johnny Sexton
Joey Carbery
Ross Byrne

Reserves:
Tyler Bleyendaal
JJ Hanrahan
Ian Keatley
Johnny Mcphillips

We’re kind of in the same boat here as above, with Sexton so far ahead of the rest. Carbery’s move to Munster however, will be hugely beneficial and Ross Byrne will only get better.

Centre

Robbie Henshaw
Garry Ringrose
Bundee Aki
Chris Farrell

Reserves:
Luke Marshall
Rory Scannell
Noel Reid
Rory O’Loughlin
Stuart McCloskey
Sammy Arnold
Will Addison

This is another position that not too long ago was hugely worrying. Time and time again we saw Schmidt resort to putting the likes of Earls, Bowe and Payne in the centre because he was out of options. With Ringrose, Aki, Farrell and Henshaw now all options – Ireland are well stocked in midfield.

Wing

Keith Earls
Jacob Stockdale
Jordan Larmour
Andrew Conway
Fergus McFadden

Reserves:
Darren Sweetnam
Adam Byrne
Craig Gilroy
Niyi Adeolukun
Matt Healy
Dave Kearney
Cian Kelleher
Alex Wootton
Barry Daly
Will Addison

In Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale Ireland have two of the in-form wingers in world rugby right now. Add in the likes of Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway, and Ireland are well-stocked. .

Fullback

Rob Kearney
Andrew Conway
Jordan Larmour
Joey Carbery

Reserves:
Tieran O’Halloran
Will Addison
Mike Haley

Rob Kearney silenced a lot of doubters this season, but his inconsistency and injury record is a problem. Schmidt needs to give Conway and Larmour more game time at 15 next season, while new Munster signing Mike Haley could be one to watch.

Are we missing anyone above that should have been listed? Let us know in the comments.