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4 Ireland Positional Battles To Watch Against Wales

4 Ireland Positional Battles To Watch Against Wales
By Conor O'Leary
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Competition for places in Ireland's World Cup squad is already exceptionally fierce. With Schmidt set to cut his squad to 38 or 39 after the Welsh game, and only 31 players allowed in the final squad.

There are some tense positional battles going on, and with multiple players in some of said tussles on show tomorrow, here's what you need to watch out for.

Second Row

It's not clear whether Schmidt will limit his squad to having just three second rows, or whether there will be four. I think it's safe to assume that Paul O'Connell, Devin Toner, and Iain Henderson will all travel - leaving a potential final showdown between the returning Donnacha Ryan and the often injured but talented Dan Tuohy.

Ryan gets the first chance with Henderson tomorrow, but Tuohy will be coming in off the bench. Both players are better suited to the gruntwork of tighthead lock similar O'Connell instead of a slimmer lineout technican like Toner.

It could be as simple as which one plays better this weekend, but you'd expect both to last another week at least.

Flanker

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Ireland have always had an abundance of backrowers, and with players finally healthy - there are six Six Nations winners available to Schmidt, and one quality youngster in Jack Conan there too. Whilst it's a bit soon for Conan - there is a big battle ahead between Chris Henry, Jordi Murphy, Tommy O'Donnell for one, maybe two spots to join Jamie Heaslip, Peter O'Mahony, and Sean O'Brien.

Jordi Murphy has the advantage of being able to play all across the back row. Chris Henry is a leader, and was the favourite of Schmidt's pre-heart condition, whilst Tommy O'Donnell is probably the most natural openside that Ireland have produced in a very long time.

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Leaving one of those out is going to be extremely difficult.

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Back Three

Of the following list, it's likely just four are going to be included in Ireland's 31-man squad: Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls, Simon Zebo, Rob Kearney, Felix Jones, Fergus McFadden, Craig Gilroy, Dave Kearney, and Andrew Trimble.

Short of closing his eyes and pointing - Schmidt has an exceptionally tough decision ahead of him. We can assume that Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe are already on the plane then the battle between Trimble, Jones, Earls and McFadden tomorrow will be intriguing.

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If Earls can offer versatility he'll do himself a big favour, likewise McFadden's centre ability. Simon Zebo is on the bench, and could be used at his preferred position of full back, and Schmidt knows that Luke Fitzgerald is an option from 11-15 aswell.

Outhalf

 

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It was almost a surprise when Paddy Jackson was selected ahead of Ian Keatley for the World Cup squad. This coming after Keatley had usurped both Madigan and Jackson to start Ireland's Six Nations opener against Italy.

Jackson gets the first chance to impress, and it was interesting to note how enthuasistic and full of praise that Schmidt was for Jackson in the team announcement press conference. Schmidt highlighted Jackson's impressive end of season form with Ulster, and his frustration over the Ulsterman's injuries.

Madigan has the advantage of being able to play at inside centre and fullback as well, which could mean that there is room for both of them. Either way, an impressive first half from Jackson before Madigan comes on will be crucial. What position Madigan plays will also be very instructive.

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See Also: The 5 Irish Players With The Most To Gain V Wales
See Also: 50 Things That Will Definitely Happen In The Rugby World Cup
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