Picking Ireland’s Current Strongest Starting XV Ahead Of The World Cup

Road to Japan.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt last week named a 44-man training squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup, with that squad set to be trimmed down to 31 before they fly out to Japan.

We’ve had a go at picking his final 31-man squad, but how do we currently stand in terms of the strongest starting XV? Most positions pick themselves but a number are open for debate.

Starting with the front-row there probably isn’t a huge argument here. Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong are currently the first choice selections, and bar any injuries will continue to do so.

Up next is the second-row and here’s where things get interesting. James Ryan starts no question, but who partners him? Do you go with your trusted lineout operator in Devin Toner or do you go with the breakdown menace in Tadhg Beirne. Personally I’d be going with the latter.

Then there’s the back-row – a very debatable area. You’d imagine Peter O’Mahony will start at six, while at seven Josh van der Flier is the outstanding candidate. But who starts at 8? Jack Conan seems to be the form player, but Stander has more experience and rarely lets you down. Something tells us the Munster man will edge it.

As for the backs I don’t envisage too many surprises here. Schmidt will likely stick with his regulars. Picking the right centre combination will be his biggest headache. All going well if both are fit – you can’t really go wrong with Henshaw and Ringrose at 12 and 13.

Ireland’s Current Strongest Starting XV

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

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander/Jack Conan

What changes would you make? Let us know in the comments.