Dan Sheehan’s inclusion in Ireland’s Rugby World Cup squad increasingly likely

Optimism growing within camp that hooker is on course to recover from foot injury in time for major World Cup pool Tests against South Africa and Scotland

There’s increasing if cautious optimism emanating from the Irish camp that Dan Sheehan’s estimated recovery time from the foot injury he sustained in last Saturday’s win over England will not rule him out of Ireland’s initial 33-man Rugby World Cup squad to be announced at lunchtime on Monday.

Andy Farrell is likely to give an update on the hooker’s wellbeing after announcing the Irish line-up for their final warm-up game against Samoa on Saturday in Bayonne (kick-off 8.45pm local time/7.45pm Irish) this afternoon.

Pending that, attack coach Mike Catt has said that they would “definitely” consider including Sheehan in the World Cup squad if, say, he was sidelined for four weeks, and thus even if he was not ready to play until Ireland’s third pool game against South Africa in Stade de France on September 23rd.

The 24-year-old Sheehan has become an integral part of the Irish team during the last year and a half, rapidly winning 18 caps, in starting all three Tests in New Zealand, as well as the November wins over South Africa and Australia. He also played in all but one of the Six Nations games, helping to seal the Grand Slam with his two-try performance against England.


Admittedly, it’s a bit of a concern that Farrell has all but ruled out Ronan Kelleher (hamstring) in addition to Sheehan, Jack Conan and David Kilcoyne, none of whom travelled with the rest of the squad last Sunday to Biarritz.

But Farrell did specifically say that they should be fine for the start of the pool stages, in which case it would be worth taking a gamble on both Sheehan and Kelleher, in addition to Rob Herring.

This is all the truer given Ireland’s schedule, which has pitted them against Romania and Tonga before the pivotal games against South Africa and Scotland which, helpfully, are a fortnight apart as well.

The gamble is reduced by Cian Healy’s ability to cover hooker at scrum time, as he did for the second half of the penultimate Six Nations game against Scotland in Murrayfield, when Josh van der Flier also assumed responsibility for the lineout throwing.

To cover the latter eventuality as well, it appears that the scrumhalves have been practising lineout throwing in training as well, which is perhaps another indication that the coaches are willing to gamble on Sheehan and Kelleher.

Given Jimmy O’Brien, Herring and Jack Crowley have all been put up before the travelling media this week, that would suggest this trio will all be involved against Samoa next Saturday. This in turn points to the kind of mix and match selection which Farrell suggested would be the case for this final warm-up game in the wake of the English game.

On the basis that Johnny Sexton and much of the frontline players will feature in the opening pool game against Romania in Bordeaux next Saturday fortnight, one imagines this week’s selection might more closely resemble the line-up for that aforementioned game against Tonga a week later.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times