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Five Emerging Ireland Stars Who Could Force Their Way Into The World Cup Squad

Conor O'Leary
By Conor O'Leary

Ireland announced a 27 man squad to compete as the 'Emerging Ireland' team in the World Rugby Tbilisi Cup along with Emerging Italy, Uruguay and Georgia next month.

The squad will be lead by Girvan Dempsey and Allen Clarke and will feature a number of Ireland's up and coming players like Dan Leavy, Frank Taggart, Finlay Bealham, and Cian Kelleher.

But there are several players who are on the fringes of World Cup selection who can enhance their chances of making Joe Schmidt's 31 man squad.

Here are the Five Emerging Ireland Bolters for the World Cup:

James Cronin

The new rules for World Cup squads will incorporate the extra prop on the bench, which means the extra man in the allowed 31 man squad (previously 30) is most likely to be a prop.

This means there is likely to be three looseheads and three tightheads, to avoid another Twickenham 2011 fiasco.

Assuming that Cian Healy and Jack McGrath are the top two choices, the third spot is up for grabs with Dave Kilcoyne the front runner.

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Kilcoyne and Cronin have dovetailed well as the one-two punch for Munster at loosehead. Kilcoyne offers more in the loose, while I think Cronin is a much better scrummager. I know which one I'd want in my squad.

Stuart McCloskey

Stuart McCloskey is unlike any other centre Ireland have at their disposal.

Standing at 6'3 and weighing 16 st, McCloskey is the big and strong centre that the rest of the world have been using at inside centre, while Ireland have been relying on 5'11'' Gordon D'Arcy against the monsters of Ma'a Nonu or Jamie Roberts.

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McCloskey isn't just a big target in midfield though. The 22-year old Ulster centre has displayed good hands and speed in his breakout season, and is rewarded with a spot in this squad.

Given the small number in a World Cup squad, a different attacking weapon for Schmidt to use could be an attractive option.

Rhys Ruddock

It seems fairly clear that Rhys Ruddock's inclusion in this squad is largely due to his lack of gametime recently.

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Ruddock's recent injury troubles have pulled him back to the fight for World Cup places after his star turn filling in for Chris Henry last November.

Schmidt is very loyal to his players, and I'd expect Ruddock to secure a spot on the short plane across the Irish sea.

Rob Herring

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Not an obvious choice, but Schmidt has consistently picked the Ulster backup hooker as his 4th choice hooker.

Schmidt is likely to select three hookers in the squad, but if any of the hookers suffer an injury he could be the beneficiary. Sean Cronin is currently out until just before the warm up games in which Herring is likely to get some gametime.

What is interesting to note however is the exclusion of Munster's Duncan Casey from the Emerging Ireland squad.

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Denis Buckley

Buckley had quite a season, as reflected in his inclusion in the bolter list of the season. He was one of the few players in the country who was consistently excellent this season without any lulls.

Much like with James Cronin, Buckley is competing with the Munster pair for inclusion in the squad. He's likely fighting a losing battle, but if he can get the upper hand over Cronin on tour - continued excellent form gives him an outside chance.

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See Also: 7 Irish Bolters Who Enhanced Their World Cup Chances This Season
See Also: Will Gordon D’Arcy Make Ireland’s Rugby World Cup Squad?
See Also: Irish Rugby’s Depth Means Quality Will Be Left Behind

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