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7 Irish Players Who Could Still Force Themselves Back Into The World Cup Squad

7 Irish Players Who Could Still Force Themselves Back Into The World Cup Squad
By Conor O'Leary

Ireland are back to back Six Nations champions. That feels good to say. They did it without five players who started in the previous year's Six Nations. In fact, much was made of the two victories in November with 15 players out injured. Irish rugby has some serious depth about it.

It would be easy to forget this in all the euphoria, but there are at least 16 players who didn't play a minute of rugby in the Six Nations who have a legitimate chance of making Joe Schmidt's 31 World Cup squad.

Here are the 7 most likely candidates to make the leap:

1. Keith Earls

There was a growing push for the Limerick back to be included in Joe Schmidt's matchday squads after acting as the 24th man on several occasions. Earls looks a different player since he returned from injury, playing with more intelligence whilst retaining his pace that set him out as a youngster.

You get the impression that a season under Joe Schmidt means that Earls could fully realise his potential. He hasn't been included in a Schmidt matchday squad yet, but it's not hard to see that Joe is making Earls learn his system the same way Simon Zebo, Robbie Henshaw and Dave Foley have all undergone.

2. Andrew Trimble

Just a year after being awarded the player of the year for his outstanding 2014 Six Nations, Trimble was sidelined through injury as Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe came in and won eight of the last nine games.

Trimble has the most chance of those not involved to get back into Schmidt's plan, but the wing spot is very fluid and rewards those in form.

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3. Rhys Ruddock

Just four months ago, Ruddock was elevated into the starting lineup for Ireland and starred against South Africa and Australia in the unfamiliar openside flanker role.

With Sean O'Brien returning to the fold, and Chris Henry expected back, Ruddock could be up against it, especially after the impressive performances of both Tommy O'Donnell and Jordi Murphy in this year's Six Nations.

4. Stuart Olding

A dark horse. Olding is a precocious talent. The versatile back is most at home at inside centre, grew up playing outhalf, and has international caps at full back. Devastating with ball in hand and runs some great lines through a defence.

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Is a long shot, but of all the youngsters that could make it, he has the most potential, Schmidt is a fan, and covers enough positions that he could be worth a squad spot.

5. Donnacha Ryan

Ryan has had a horrendous run with injuries after almost 18 months out with a toe problem. He has just made his return, playing in two games - one for Munster and another for their A team. Ryan has the most experience of the second row candidates outside of Toner, O'Connell and Henderson; and could sneak in ahead of Dan Tuohy or Mike McCarthy.

Ryan hasn't been involved in a Schmidt extended squad, which counts against him usually, but if there was ever a selfless player that typified what Schmidt looks for in a lock forward who can play at blindside - it's Ryan.

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I think that two of Ryan, Henry and Ruddock will make the squad.

6. Chris Henry

Henry isn't like the rest of the names on this list.

Henry's place in the World Cup squad is secured, if his health is ok after the scare in November before the game against South Africa. I'm not a doctor, I haven't a clue if he'll make it.

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7. Gordon D'Arcy

In his 16 year career, Gordon D'Arcy has been written off approximately 4,254,326 times. Gordon D'Arcy has also approximately proven doubters wrong 4,254,325 times.

The latest time he's been written off is when Schmidt dropped him from the Six Nations squad.

I'm fairly confident that he will still make the squad for these reasons:

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1. Ireland are going into the tournament with a very inexperienced centre partnership. D'Arcy is the only Irish centre around with more than 11 international caps once Keith Earls is counted as an international winger.

2. Joe loves experience

3. D'Arcy knows Schmidt's systems.

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Predicted 31 man RWC Squad:

Looseheads: Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Dave Kilcoyne

Hookers: Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Richardt Strauss

Tightheads: Mike Ross, Martin Moore, Nathan White

Second Rows: Paul O' Connell, Devin Toner, Iain Henderson

Flankers: Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony, Chris Henry, Rhys Ruddock

No. 8: Jamie Heaslip (17)

Scrumhalf: Conor Murray, Eoin Reddan, Isaac Boss

Outhalf: Johnny Sexton, Ian Madigan, Ian Keatley

Centres: Robbie Henshaw, Jared Payne, Gordon D'Arcy

Wingers: Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Andrew Trimble

Fullbacks: Rob Kearney, Felix Jones (14)

 

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