Joe Schmidt has explained the thinking behind some the biggest calls in his final World Cup squad, including the surprise decision to exclude Devin Toner.
Toner, capped 67 times for Ireland, was not included in the final 31 man squad, with Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beine both making the cut alongside James Ryan and Iain Henderson. Kleyn only became eligible for Ireland last month, and has failed to impress in his two outings against Italy and England.
Kleyn’s ability to cover the back row was a major factor in Schmidt’s decision. Beirne, a teammate of Kleyn’s at Munster, can also provide back row cover.
Schmidt had to submit to final squad to World Rugby today, but was not planning to announce his final 31 man selection publicly until Sunday, the day after Ireland’s final World Cup warm-up game against Wales in Dublin.
The announcement was moved forward when the squad was leaked on Monday morning.
“I’ve coached Dev for ten years, and he’s not just a lineout champion for us,” said Schmidt, speaking in a video realised by the IRFU shortly after the squad announcement.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) September 2, 2019
“He’s such a good player, but he’s an absolutely quality person. That was an incredibly tough conversation yesterday.
“Jean Kleyn, we probably don’t have a specialist tighthead second row, as such. And again, at the start I said about the balance we’re looking for across that squad of 31. So Jean Kleyn fitted that.
“Tadhg Beirne gives you the versatility of both the second row, and he’s teamed up with Jean Kleyn really well in Munster this year. But he also gives you the threat over the ball like a 6 or 7 would, and can play in the back row.”
There was also no room for Jordi Murphy, Kieran Marmion, or Will Addison, and Schmidt said that Addison was particularly unlucky to lose out on a spot in the squad. The Ulster player impressed with a bright performance in Saturday’s 22-17 defeat of Wales in Cardiff.
“I thought Will was really good on Saturday. Unfortunately for Will, it’s all just come a little bit too late. He picked up a little bit of a calf niggle after having come back and not having played the back end of the season, and he hadn’t had that much time with us. But he fits in so well and plays so well.”
Toner’s omission did not go down well with many Irish supporters on social media, with World Rugby vice-president Agustin Pichot also stating his unhappiness with the circumstances of the Leinster lock’s exclusion.
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