Picking Ireland’s Strongest Starting XV When Everyone Is Fit

Men in green.

It’s been quite a remarkable year for Irish Rugby all things considered. With the Rugby World Cup just over a year away, Joe Schmidt’s current squad is in a pretty good place.

This year we’ve seen the emergence of guys like Dan Leavy, Bundee Aki, James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale – while veterans like Keith Earls, Johnny Sexton and Cian Healy are playing the best rugby of their career.

But with that comes some pretty difficult selection headaches. What is Ireland’s strongest starting team going forward? There’s a lot of competition in areas like the second-row, back-row and even in the centres.

Some top players would miss out if Schmidt had a clean bill of health going to Japan. But we know that’s not going to happen, such is rugby and its incredible physicality. But if that were the case, and the Rugby World Cup was kicking off tomorrow – here’s the side we would personally go with.

Potential Ireland XV

15. Andrew Conway
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (c)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Dan Leavy
8. CJ Stander

As you can see we’ve made a few big selection decisions – notably at fullback. We still feel Rob Kearney’s best days are behind him and a fit Andrew Conway is the way to go. Jordan Larmour may even find himself at fifteen come Japan, depending on how things go next season.

Rory Best is also lucky to hang onto his spot, but he’s there as captain. He could easily be overtaken in the coming months if he doesn’t get back to his best (no pun intended), with O’Mahony handed the captaincy.

In the second-row, James Ryan is number one, while Henderson will have a fight on his hands with Toner and Beirne. The same can be said for Robbie Henshaw with Bundee Aki. We also can’t find room for Sean O’Brien. He needs to show us he can still get back to his very best and stay fit.