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Snubbed Ireland World Cup XV


The Missing Ireland World Cup XV

There are some big names are missing from Joe Schmidt’s 31-man squad for the World Cup in Japan. Some players are injured but many have missed out for selection reasons. Here, RugbyPass gives you an XV of players being left behind in Ireland.  


Cian Healy’s return to form since 2017 and the strength of Dave Kilcoyne’s performances in 2019 meant McGrath – who came off the bench in all three 2017 Lions Test matches against New Zealand – was unable to make the squad, never mind regain his Ireland starting spot. He would have travelled if Schmidt had generously opted for six props. However, he went with five in 2015 and he has now gone with just the five again, Andrew Porter being called on to cover both sides of the scrum.


Ulster’s hooker misses out on his second World Cup in a row as Munster’s Niall Scannell and Leinster’s Sean Cronin are preferred behind captain Rory Best. Best’s status has come under recent scrutiny but Schmidt trusts his captain, especially in the lineout. Cronin’s try-scoring ability and around-the-park energy gives Ireland mobility off the bench, while Scannell’s starting role in Ireland’s 2018 series win in Australia wasn’t forgotten. That left Herring as the odd man out.


Bealham is an intelligent tighthead who was a key part of Connacht’s 2016 PRO12 triumph. A slump in form for province and country led to him working hard to lose some weight and improve his mobility and stamina around the park, but he was unable to overtake John Ryan and Porter in the tighthead back-up rankings.


Another Connacht absentee, Dillane was cut from the squad in early August before the World Cup warm-up matches even started. He emerged during the first half of this four-year RWC cycle, earning 11 caps between February 2016 and November 2017, but the emergence since then of James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne and now Jean Kleyn in the Irish engine room left him surplus to RWC requirements. 


The RWC squad’s headline omission. There had been mutterings about Toner’s lack of mobility for years but his brilliance in the lineout and importance to Ireland’s restarts saw him keep his place. Kleyn’s recent eligibility under the three-year residency rule altered the pecking order, though, and a player who starred last November in Ireland’s win over New Zealand is now out of the loop as they head to Japan.  


Ireland would have loved to have had at least one of these injured back rows available. O’Brien was class on the 2017 Lions while Leavy became a star of the 2018 Ireland Grand Slam and Leinster’s European/PRO14 double. O’Brien’s exit to London Irish means his Test career is over, but 25-year-old Leavy should have a shot at RWC 2023 if he recovers from his serious injury. 


O’Donnell must be wondering which god he has offended having missed out on a second consecutive RWC tournament. He infamously dislocated a hip in the opening warm-up match in 2015 in Cardiff, while injury in 2019 meant he arrived into Ireland pre-season with little or no rugby for Munster. A sole August start against Italy wasn’t going to upset the pecking order.  


Versatile and hard-working, Murphy has been there on some of Schmidt’s biggest away days – Cape Town, Chicago, Twickenham and Sydney – but the ability of both Beirne and, at a push, Rhys Ruddock to cover lock meant Murphy was always in danger of missing out. 


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He was an accomplished starter in last November’s win over New Zealand, but scrum-half was always a position where Schmidt would only take the bare minimum with him to Japan. He only had two scrum-halves at England 2015 and it is the same again now, out-half Joey Carbery on standby to provide emergency cover at No9 if the need arises. That left Marmion in a head-to-head with Luke McGrath behind Conor Murray and he lost out, McGrath’s Champions Cup experience and defensive qualities seeing him preferred.


Byrne has frequently looked the part when stepping up for Johnny Sexton at Leinster, so much so that Carbery moved to Munster last summer to start getting time in the No10 role. However, having slipped behind Jack Carty in the Ireland pecking order during the 2019 Six Nations, Byrne never stood a chance of showing what he can do as Ireland’s pack spent the day last month going backwards at Twickenham in his first Test start.


Another player who has had a terrible time with injuries, Kearney finally put a string of games together for Leinster in 2019 to remind everyone what he can do. A starter in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final, he has long been a favourite of Schmidt but there were just too many talented backs at Ireland’s disposal now for him to join his brother Rob in the RWC squad.


He was one of Ulster’s standout performances in a greatly improved season last time out, but Ireland have their preferences in the middle of the park and Schmidt doesn’t seem to trust the popular, offloading centre’s ability to play within his structures. 


The Munster inside centre was one of the early cuts to the 45-man RWC training squad despite having a handy left boot as well as clever hands.


Ulster’s versatile back is more usually at 15 or centre. Classy and creative when on his game, he had a start last Saturday against Wales to force his way in but it didn’t work out for him. 


Recruited by Munster from Sale last summer after Simon Zebo ended his Test career by moving to Racing 92, Haley made his Ireland debut off the bench against Italy last month but was soon cut for the warm-weather camp in Portugal.  

WATCH: The Rugby Pod voice their concerns for Ireland their World Cup campaign after their humbling loss to England at Twickenham

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The Missing Ireland World Cup XV
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