The Biggest Winners & Losers Following Ireland’s World Cup Squad Announcement
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Ireland officially revealed their 31-man Rugby World Cup squad yesterday afternoon – six days earlier than planned after a number of key decisions were leaked by the press.
There was no room for the ever-present Devin Toner, or Ulster’s Will Addison despite his impressive performance against Wales on Saturday. Andrew Conway and Dave Kilcoyne were rightly rewarded for their excellent form with spots in the squad.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers following the announcement.
The Munster loosehead put down his best 40 minutes in an Ireland jersey on Saturday and is now heading to Japan as a result. The former Ardscoil Rís man has had an excellent 12 months, playing some of the best rugby of his career. Could end up being one of the star performers at the World Cup is he’s given the chance.
Having only become eligible just over a month ago, Kleyn must have thought his chances of making the squad were slim. But the fact that he’s the only scrummaging tighthead lock available in the squad has given him the edge. Tough on Devin Toner, but at the end of the day it’s Joe Schmidt’s call and Kleyn is a fantastic player that will only get better the more games he plays at Test level.
The Munster winger has been consistently brilliant now for the best part of three seasons but has found his chances in green limited. Excellent under the high ball, bursting with pace and footwork and a natural-born finisher – another man who could be a real standout if he’s given the chance to play.
If you told Jack Carty this time last year he’d be heading to the World Cup in Japan with Ireland he probably would have laughed at you. But make no mistake – his spot in the squad is thoroughly deserved. The Connacht man is a perfect example of a player biding his time and then taking his opportunity with both hands. And with questions marks of the fitness of Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery, the 27-year-old could play a key role.
The 26-year-old has been very unfortunate with injuries since arriving at Munster from Grenoble two seasons ago. But every time he has worn the green jersey he has impressed, including a mammoth man of the match performance against Wales on his Six Nations debut. Farrell offers something different to the other three centres in the squad and will play a key role in Japan.
The giant second-row is the most high-profile omission in the squad and will be sorely missed in the lineout. But he has struggled with injuries in the last few months and looks to be approaching the twilight of his Test career. Regardless though, you really have to feel for the guy.
Many felt his performance against Wales was enough to secure his spot on the plane – especially given his versatility. But he’s another man that has been blighted by injury in recent months and Schmidt still has plenty of versatility in his backs. It probably would have been unfair in the end to drop someone like Conway, Larmour or Farrell in place of the former Sale Sharks man.
The former Leinster man made the move to Ulster at the start of last season in a bid to force his way back into the Ireland fold, and while he’s been heavily involved – Schmidt went with his former teammate Rhys Ruddock in the end. A tough pill to swallow for Murphy who looked to have done enough.
Just over two years ago McGrath was a Test Lion, playing a role in all three games against New Zealand. But he has struggled for form and fitness in recent seasons and recently signed for Ulster in a bid to get his career back on track. Perhaps a good pre-season is best for him and we might just see the McGrath of old once again in the coming months – just not in green.
The Connacht man starred in Ireland’s famous win over the All Blacks back in November but was then sidelined for a number of months with a serious injury. Has come back into the Ireland fold in recent weeks and controlled the game well. But Schmidt has instead opted for the livelier option in McGrath. Personally I would have had Cooney on the plane, but what do I know!