Joe Schmidt’s decisions clouded by Joey Carbery recovery

John Cooney, Finlay Bealham and Mike Haley cut from Ireland squad for Portugal camp

Ireland’s John Cooney has been cut from the Rugby World Cup training camp squad. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Three down nine to go. John Cooney is depending on injury to Conor Murray, Kieran Marmion or Luke McGrath to feature at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The Ulster scrumhalf, along with Connacht prop Finlay Bealham and Munster fullback Mike Haley, was cut from the Ireland squad that travelled to Portugal on Wednesday for warm weather training.

Joey Carbery will rehabilitate his injured left ankle – a process that is expected to take four to six weeks – in the Algarve. The 23-year-old outhalf is in a race against time to make the opening Pool A match against Scotland on September 22nd with the equally crucial Japan fixture, on September 28th, also in doubt.

It’s unknown if Schmidt is willing to include an injured player in his 31 man tournament squad, which will be announced in three weeks, but taking six halfbacks has become a stronger possibility.

Cooney will not be one of them. The 29-year-old offered the added value of being Ulster’s primary goal kicker last season and he’s proven himself as adequate cover at outhalf but the Ireland management have settled for Marmion and McGrath as understudies to Murray.


Devin Toner (ankle) and Rob Herring (back spasm) have “fully recovered” from injuries suffered against Italy last Saturday.

With Carbery unable to train Johnny Sexton’s exposure will presumably be limited before facing England at Twickenham on Saturday week. Hence, Jack Carty and Ross Byrne both feature at the Quinta do Lago camp. The pecking order is clear as Carty was used ahead of Byrne during the Six Nations when Carbery was injured.

Taking three outhalves would not bode well for Andrew Conway or Chris Farrell. If Schmidt opts for an 18 forwards and 13 backs split both could miss out. Will Addison – excellent at fullback and centre for Ulster last season until progress was halted by back surgery – and Dave Kearney will also struggle to make the final selection.

All permutations are clouded by Carbery’s ankle. If recovery is quicker than expected Schmidt might be confident enough to go with only five halfbacks, which could see Carty and Byrne return to their provinces.

All told, nine more cuts are due with seven of these players to be placed on standby. Schmidt has stated the World Cup squad will be named in the first week of September, between the two Wales warm-up matches.

There are three more selection battles. Ulster bound prop Jack McGrath is in a straight fight with Munster's Dave Kilcoyne to cover Cian Healy at loosehead while Ireland captain Rory Best, who turns 37 today, will be joined by two hookers from Niall Scannell, Sean Cronin and Herring. The last backrower, presuming Jean Kleyn is named as the fourth second row and only 17 forwards are selected, will come from Tadhg Beirne, Jordi Murphy, Rhys Ruddock and Tommy O'Donnell.

While Ulster welcomes Cooney back into the fold, coach Dan McFarland could be without marquee foreign player Marcell Coetzee possibly until November as Springboks coach Rassie Erassmus has named the 28-year-old at number eight against Argentina in Pretoria this Saturday.

Meanwhile, Dunedin District Court judge Michael Crosbie has freed Amanaki Mafi to play for Japan at the tournament by pushing the date of his trial on a charge of assaulting Wallabies forward Lopeti Timani until January "when the World Cup is over." Mafi, a key figure in Jamie Joseph's team, has pleaded not guilty.

Ireland squad for Portugal training camp

Forwards (22)

Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) 117 caps

Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 6 caps

Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 14 caps

Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 68 caps

Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 33 caps

Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 89 caps

Iain Henderson (Queen’s University/Ulster) 45 caps

Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 8 caps

Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 29 caps

Jean Kleyn (Munster) 1 cap

Jack McGrath (St Mary’s College/Ulster) 55 caps

Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Ulster) 28 caps

Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 13 caps

Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 57 caps

Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 15 caps

Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 22 caps

James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 17 caps

John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 19 caps

Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 15 caps

CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 31 caps

Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 65 caps

Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 17 caps

Backs (18)

Will Addison (Enniskillen/Ulster) 3 caps

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 17 caps

Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 2 caps

Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 19 caps

Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 4 caps

Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 13 caps

Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 77 caps

Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 6 caps

Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 37 caps

Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 18 caps

Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 90 caps

Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 14 caps

Kieran Marmion (Galwegians/Connacht) 26 caps

Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 11 caps

Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 72 caps

Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 21 caps

Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 83 caps

Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 19 caps

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent