Make or break: Nine Ireland players who need to lay down World Cup marker

The competition for Joe Schmidt’s squad for this year’s tournament in Japan is intense

 

Ireland play nine Tests, five in the Six Nations and four warm-up games, ahead of this year’s World Cup in Japan. The priority for all those in contention is to get game time in the green jersey.

Players crave an opportunity to reinforce their credentials irrespective of whether it arises through merit-based selection or injury. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt selected a 38-man squad for the opening two matches in the Six Nations, outlining a loose pecking order but there is still scope to jostle for position, initially over the next seven weeks.

With a 31-man squad limit for the Rugby World Cup in Japan the competition for places is considerable.

Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)

In excellent form for his province he started Ireland’s last game of the November Test series against the USA, and as things stand is in a battle with Jack McGrath to understudy Ireland’s first-choice loosehead prop, Cian Healy. He didn’t play in Ireland’s 2018 Grand Slam but is handed first crack at claiming a jersey today.

John Ryan (Munster)

He made a couple of appearances off the bench in last season’s Six Nations, started one of two matches he played in the summer series win over Australia, and scored a first try when coming on against the USA in the last of his 16 caps. At the moment he sits behind Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter but the likelihood is that three tighthead props will travel to Japan.

Niall Scannell (Munster)

Called into the Ireland squad for the summer tour to Australia when captain, Rory Best was forced to withdraw through injury, he started two of the Tests and did likewise against Italy in Chicago and the USA. He’s been periodically unlucky with injury. When both were fit he has been chosen ahead of Seán Cronin and it promises to be a mighty tussle between them for the back-up role to Best.

Ultan Dillane (Connacht)

The last of his 11 caps came against Fiji in November 2017, as injury, a loss of form and stiff competition relegated him to the outside looking in, having enjoyed a brilliant debut season at Test level in 2016. Schmidt chose him in the original 38-man squad but he has lost out to Quinn Roux for a place on the bench against England. And with the injured Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson due back, he desperately needs a chance in a green jersey.

Quinn Roux (Connacht)

He didn’t make the original Irish squad but was called up following injuries to Beirne and Henderson. Roux, who scored a try off the bench in the last of his eight caps, has won the battle for a place on the bench against England, an opportunity he’ll be keen to grasp, whatever minutes come his way today.

Rhys Ruddock (Leinster)

He’d be in a matchday 23 for most other countries but Ireland’s lavish backrow resources make it a ridiculously competitive area of the team. The quality of his performances for Leinster and Ireland are generally of a high grade but he may require an injury to open the door during the Six Nations.

John Cooney (Ulster)

Injuries to Luke McGrath and Kieran Marmion mean that he gets a chance to understudy Conor Murray but that’s only a starting point. Cooney needs significant minutes in a couple of big matches to advance his credentials and prove that he can thrive in the Test arena.

Will Addison (Ulster)

Is he a wing, a fullback or a centre? He can certainly play all three to a very high level as he has done in his brief international career to date but he needs to break through the glass ceiling and get into the matchday 23 on a regular basis. There’s no doubting his talent or aptitude but he needs game time in the Test arena.

Andrew Conway (Munster)

Ten caps, five tries, a hat-trick in his last appearance and still he could find himself tussling with players like first-choice wings Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Will Addison, and now Robbie Henshaw with his relocation to fullback in a very cluttered race for back three positions and the number 23 jersey.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.