Joe Schmidt has named his Rugby World Cup squad. Many of the players are mainstays of the Irish team, however there are some newcomers and the coach has admitted to experimenting with several players in different positions. Schmidt has gone for a seventeen forwards and fourteen backs split.
Hookers: Rory Best (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster).
Speculation that Sean Cronin or Richardt Strauss may not make the final squad are proved unfounded. Rory Best will be feeling under pressure as both hookers have been in strong form during the warm up games.
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Props: Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht).
Cian Healy makes the squad despite having struggled with injuries recently. Jack McGrath and Mike Ross come in as favourites to make the starting fifteen both having been strong on the international stage.
Youngster Tadhg Furlong has made the squad after making his debut over the weekend and the Ireland coaches have stated he will be used to cover both sides of the scrum despite being primarily a tighthead.
Special mention must be made of Nathan White who has debuted at the age of 33, and put in an excellent performance against Wales over the weekend.
Locks: Iain Henderson (Ulster), Paul O'Connell (capt), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster).
Paul O’Connell is one of the best second rows in world rugby even though he is at the ripe age of thirty five, three years past the average retirement age of professional Rugby players.
Joe Schmidt will be hoping his captain can stay fit for the tournament as O’Connell has become the beating heart of the Irish team.
Youngster Iain Henderson and Munster lynchpin Donnacha Ryan are both in, and bring the added bonus of being able to play flanker as well as lock. Henderson was one of Ireland’s best players over the weekend and may well push out Paul O’Connell’s regular partner Devin Toner for the number four jersey.
Toner has yet to feature in the Irish World Cup build up, but the giant lock will probably play against England this weekend. Veteran Mike McCarthy is unlucky to miss out.
Back-rowers: Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster).
Irish management have gone with an experienced backrow selection. Jamie Heaslip will be likely to start at eight, whilst O’Mahony specialises at blindside and Henry on the open-side.
Jordi Murphy and Sean O’Brien can both play across the back-row. All of the players are in form and it will be interesting to see who is given a chance against England this weekend. Peter O’Mahony is likely to be rested after picking up a slight knock against Wales.
Back three: Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Dave Kearney (Leinster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Simon Zebo (Munster).
Joe Schmidt has gone with a malleable back three, with all the players being able to play Fullback, Wing or Centre. Keith Earls continues to an impressive return to international stage, despite being stretchered off in Dublin over the weekend.
The Kearney brothers both looked impressive against Wales and are likely to start for Ireland, whilst speedsters Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo will be looking for a starting place in a competitive squad.
Veteran Andrew Trimble has been unlucky with injury and Joe Schmidt agonised over leaving the winger out of the squad such is the coaches respect for the player. However his lack of game time eventually made the decision.
Centres: Darren Cave (Ulster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Jared Payne (Ulster);
Darren Cave is the only specialist centre in the squad, with Luke Fitzgerald, Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne all having played wing or fullback for large parts of their careers.
However Henshaw has made a very successful move to inside Centre, and both Payne and Fitzgerald have impressed at outside centre.
Bowe, Earls, Madigan and Sexton have all played in the centre for both Ireland and at club level. I predict that Cave may well muscle in on the established partnership of Henshaw and Payne.
Fly-halves: Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster);
Johnny Sexton comes into the squad almost unchallenged at fly-half. He made several errors against Wales and was seen icing his arm after he came off.
Paddy Jackson made a shaky cameo in Dublin but he has the potential to be a real threat. Ian Madigan has been playing a lot at inside Centre. Schmidt has also said that Madigan has been training at scrum-half and will be covering at third choice. He is likely to come off the bench at scrum-half against England next weekend.
Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster).
Along with Madigan, Murray and Reddan are the scum-half options. Murray comes in as favourite, playing very well against Wales. Eoin Reddan has also been in good form and the veteran will be an able deputy. Isaac Boss is unlucky to miss out.
Likely Team to play England.
Schmidt is likely to experiment with several players against England, but will also want a victory.
Johnny Sexton, Peter O’Mahony, Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls are all likely to be rested after picking up knocks in Dublin. Paul O’Connell may also be rested after having a busy World Cup warm up period.
1. McGrath 2. Rory Best 3. Nick White
4. Toner 5. Ryan
6. Murphy 8. O’Brien 7. Henry(capt)
9. Murray 10. Jackson
11. Bowe 12. Cave 13. Payne 14. Zebo
15. D. Kearney
Bench- 16. Cronin 17. Furlong 18. Ross 19. Henderson 20. Heaslip
21. Madigan 22. Sexton 23. Henshaw