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Ireland's RWC training squad winners and losers

By Liam Heagney
Ireland culled two from his training squad (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Seven of the 46 players capped by Joe Schmidt during Ireland’s nine-match 2018/19 campaign have not been selected in the 44-strong squad chosen on Tuesday to begin preparations in mid-June for the World Cup. 


Injuries ruled the unfortunate Sean O’Brien and Dan Leavy out of contention, with Quinn Roux, Stuart McCloskey, Sam Arnold, Darren Sweetnam and Will Addison the other exclusions. 

There was good news, however, for five players who didn’t feature at any stage during the recent Test season as they were called-up for the preparations that will take place in Maynooth, Galway and Limerick before a four-match warm-up series against Italy, Wales (twice) and England gets underway in August. 

Here, RugbyPass nominates the three of the biggest winners and the two of the biggest losers following Schmidt’s training squad announcement for the Japan finals…

WINNER – Dave Kearney

Not since November 2017, a difficult evening when he threw an intercepted pass to gift fighting Fiji a try, has Dave Kearney been capped by Ireland. But Schmidt has always had a soft spot for a winger he handed a debut to in his very first match in charge versus Samoa in November 2013. 


Injuries have become the bane Kearney’s life. He has played just three times for Ireland since getting exposed by Argentina in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final and featured in just five of Leinster’s last 26 European Cup games. 

However, Schmidt believes the soon-to-be 30-year-old has more to offer in RWC preparations than Darren Sweetnam, the less experienced Munster wing who started Ireland’s November win over USA.  

LOSER – Quinn Roux

Omission is a huge blow for the 28-year-old as he was Ireland’s second busiest lock during the 2018/19 season, making six appearances and starting on three occasions. Only James Ryan earned more engine room caps.


The South African didn’t play for Connacht since the start of March, a virus his latest reported ailment, and he will be replaced in the RWC training squad by a fellow countryman, Jean Kleyn, who has recently qualified for Ireland under the same 36-month residency rule that qualified Roux.

He won’t lose all hope, though. Schmidt has stated that “one or two guys may be added to the squad at a later stage” and that gives Roux every incentive to get himself healthy. He was excluded from Ireland’s initial Six Nations squad, which included five locks, but injuries put him in the mix and he went on to play four times in the championship. 

WINNER – Tommy O’Donnell

Injuries have been a curse in the Munster back row’s career, but the wheel has now turned in his favour with Schmidt’s RWC training squad. With O’Brien and Leavy ruled out, O’Donnell has been invited along to Carton House to see can he make an impact.

He will hope he can stay the distance on this occasion. Back in August 2015, he horrifically dislocated a hip when Ireland beat Wales in their opening warm-up for that year’s RWC.

O’Donnell hasn’t been capped since the March 2016 Six Nations game versus Scotland, but the shoulder operation he required following Munster’s win last January over Exeter could now work in his favour as the 32-year-old will arrive into Irish camp fresh and ready to give everything to secure a back row squad berth.  

LOSER – Stuart McCloskey

McCloskey is a midfielder who is bang in form. His efforts for Ulster earned him selection in the Guinness Dream Team XV for that tournament, but that wasn’t enough to get the attention of Schmidt who has instead included Rory Scannell, the Munster midfielder last capped in Tokyo two years ago. 

McCloskey’s out-of-favour situation is a regular occurrence. The 26-year-old’s ability to off-load in the tackle and dominate the gain line frequently generates excitement about him at club level, but the more conservative Schmidt has preferred to keep him on the leash internationally, capping him just once in each of the last three years.

His last appearance came against the USA last November and while he was never going to budge Bundee Aki, the Test team’s clearly established No12, he will feel hard done by that Scannell has worked his way ahead of him in the fringe pecking order.  

WINNER – Mike Haley

Addison’s pain is Haley’s gain in the Ireland training squad back line. Both arrived in the country last summer from Premiership club Sale and it was Addison who came out of the blocks quicker, gaining inclusion in Schmidt’s November squad and winning three caps. 

The full-back showed his adaptability, too, slotting in at midfield at the last minute to start when Robbie Henshaw pulled up lame in the warm-up to face Argentina. 

Back surgery ruined the remainder of his 2018/19 campaign and while he will return to full-fitness in pre-season, Schmidt has decided to instead take a look at the uncapped Haley, who looked decent to a certain level with Munster but didn’t have the required class to alter their semi-final losing sequence.  


3 LOOSEHEADSNo change for RWC training squad

Healy (6 starts + 1 cap as sub), Kilcoyne (2+5), McGrath (1+3)

4 HOOKERSNo change for RWC training squad

Best (6), Scannell (2+3), Cronin (1+5), Herring (0+1)

4 TIGHTHEADSNo change for RWC training squad

Furlong (7), Porter (1+5), Bealham (1+1), Jn Ryan (0+3)

6 SECOND ROWSRWC Change: Roux excluded, uncapped Kleyn included for RWC training 

Ja Ryan (6), Roux (3+3), Henderson (3+2), Beirne (3), Dillane (1+2), Toner 2+2) 

8 BACK ROWS RWC Change: O’Brien and Leavy ruled out with injury, O’Donnell called in

O’Mahony (7), Stander (5), van der Flier (4+3), O’Brien (4+1), Conan 3+2), Murphy (2+2), Ruddock (2), Leavy (0+1)  

4 SCRUM-HALVESNo change for RWC training squad

Murray (5), Marmion (2+1), Cooney (1+5), L McGrath (1+3)

4 OUT-HALVESNo change for RWC training squad

Sexton (7), Carbery (2+4), Carty (0+3), Byrne (0+2)  

5 CENTRESRWC Change: McCloskey and Arnold excluded, Rory Scannell included

Aki (8), Ringrose (6), Farrell (2), McCloskey (1), Arnold (0+1)

8 BACK THREESRWC Change: Addison and Sweetnam excluded, uncapped Haley and Dave Kearney called up

Stockdale (8), Earls (7), Kearney (6), Larmour (4+3), Henshaw (1), Conway (2+3), Addison (2+1), Sweetnam (1)

* Henshaw’s sole appearance in 2018/19 came at full-back versus England, but he is an established centre 

WATCH: Part one of the RugbyPass documentary on what awaits the fans at RWC 2019 in Japan

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