A Detailed Look At The Strength In Depth Ireland Now Has In Each Position
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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 the issue has alway been that Ireland are thin in a lot of positions when you start to strip things back and pick up a few injuries.
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.
Rodney Ah You
Absolutely no worries here whatsoever with three very capable looseheads in McGrath, Healy and Kilcoyne. McGrath toured with the Lions over the summer, yet Healy and Kilcoyne were preferred against Argentina, showing just how strong Ireland are in this position.
It remains to be seen whether or not Rory Best will still be captain come 2019 considering he’ll be 37 then, but either way there’s plenty of options after coming through. Niall Scannell is only getting better, as is James Tracy, while Rob Herring was impressive in November. Sean Cronin can also come back in at any time.
Marty Moore (2018)
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, while John Ryan is an excellent understudy. Porter will only get better, while Ulster bringing Marty Moore home adds another option.
Tadhg Beirne (2018)
Things looked a bit worrying here when Donncha Ryan left, but with James Ryan after coming through and Tadhg Beirne on the way, Ireland now have plenty of options in the engine room. Toner and Henderson lead the way as things stand, but will hopefully face plenty of competition over the next couple of years.
Josh van der Flier
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, O’Brien and Stander among the best in the world.
To be honest we’d be slightly worried here. Not that Marmion or McGrath 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.
Tyler Bleyendaal (2018)
We’re kind of in the same boat here as above, with Sexton so far ahead of the rest. This is an area we can see Schmidt focusing on over the next couple of years, with Joey Carbery set to see a lot more game time at ten for both club and country.
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 even McCloskey now coming through, Ireland are well stocked in midfield.
Simon Zebo may be out in the wilderness, while Trimble and Bowe are over the hill. But with the emergence of the likes of Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway, Adam Byrne and Darren Sweetnam, Ireland have nothing to worry about. Add in the ever-reliable Keith Earls, and you’ve got some really good wingers in the squad.
Rob Kearney silenced a lot of doubters in November, but his inconsistency and injury record is a problem. Same goes for Payne and O’Halloran. The depth is there though as we know how good Conway and Carbery are at 15 too.