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We've Predicted Ireland's Squad And Starting Team For Next Year's World Cup

We've Predicted Ireland's Squad And Starting Team For Next Year's World Cup
By Conor O'Leary Updated

Ireland can bring a squad of 31 players to next year's world cup in England, which means that of the current group of 35 players, with a number of big names to come back, there will be plenty of competition for places. So who has enhanced their reputation for places this November, and who has got a real fight on their hands?

Ireland's 31 man Squad for the Rugby World Cup:

Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Dave Kilcoyne, Rory Best, Richardt Strauss, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Nathan White, Martin Moore, Paul O'Connell, Devin Toner, Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, Jamie Heaslip, Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Tommy O'Donnell, Rhys Ruddock; Conor Murray, Eoin Reddan, Kieran Marmion, Jonny Sexton, Ian Madigan, Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D'Arcy, Robbie Henshaw, Jared Payne, Rob Kearney, Felix Jones

Loosehead Props

 

1. Cian Healy

2. Jack McGrath

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3. Dave Kilcoyne

4. James Cronin

Cian Healy is a lock for the starting XV if he's fit. His injury history is becoming a concern, so it's a massive relief that Jack McGrath stepped up this November and looked the part against tough opponents in Australia and South Africa. With World Rugby changing the rules of how many props are required on the bench, it means that each team will take 6 props. The player in the lead for the third loosehead prop is Munster's Dave Kilcoyne. Kilcoyne was exceptional against Georgia, especially in the loose, with his strong carry through the Georgian defense the spark that ignited Ireland's performance. Kilcoyne's biggest challenger could be his Munster teammate James Cronin.

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Hookers

1. Rory Best

2. Richardt Strauss

3. Sean Cronin

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4. Mike Sherry

5. Duncan Casey

6. Rob Herring

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Ireland named three hookers in their squad for November, with Rory Best firmly in the driving seat for the starting jumper. Sean Cronin performed extremely well against South Africa, but Richardt Strauss, himself just coming back from health issues, was outstanding against Georgia. It wouldn't surprise me if Richardt Strauss's hooking duties gets him ahead of Cronin for Ireland and Leinster, and he becomes the biggest challenger to Best's starting position. After those 3, there are several injured hookers who may come into contention should someone suffer an injury, with one of Mike Sherry or Damien Varley in Munster needing to oust Duncan Casey before contending, or Rob Herring in Ulster, who has been in previous Ireland squads.

Tighthead Prop

1. Mike Ross

2. Martin Moore

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3. Nathan White

4. Declan Fiztpatrick

5. Rodney Ah You

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6. Tadhg Furlong

Mike Ross's 80 minute performance on Saturday underlined his importance to Ireland, and he is almost certain to be Ireland's starting tighthead. Although, in  2010, the general consensus was the John Hayes would be central to Ireland's cause for the world cup the following year, yet when the time came, Hayes wasn't even in the squad as Ireland's tighthead dependence transferred over to Mike Ross. This time, there are shoots of depth springing up behind Ross, although injuries have stopped Schmidt from trying out the likes of Nathan White, while Declan Fitzpatrick and Martin Moore have shown that they can cope at the international level too. The way Schmidt namechecked White in the build up to South Africa suggests he's in his plans behind Ross and Moore.

Second Row

 

1. Paul O'Connell

2. Devin Toner

3. Iain Henderson

4. Dan Tuohy

5. Dave Foley

6. Donnacha Ryan

7. Mike McCarthy

With a limited number of places allowed in a world cup squad, and nine already designated to the front row, things start getting a lot harder from this point on. Paul O'Connell is a certainty once he is fit, while Devin Toner's improvements in the last 18 months, combined with the trust that Schmidt has entrusted in him will ensure he's the likely starting lock beside him. Iain Henderson of Ulster will be there if he recovers from injury. His ball carrying and ability to play in the back row will be vital in a reduced squad size. This probably leaves at most one other spot with three or four players who have been involved in Ireland squads fighting it out. Dan Tuohy has come on leaps and bounds before his injury in October, Dave Foley was very impressive against Georgia, and performed admirably against Australia when he came on. Donnacha Ryan seems the forgotten man after his horrendous run of injuries, while Mike McCarthy's move to Leinster has appeared to work against his international prospects.

Back Row

 

1. Sean O'Brien

2. Peter O'Mahony

3. Jamie Heaslip

4. Rhys Ruddock

5. Tommy O'Donnell

6. Chris Henry

7. Robbie Diack

8. Robin Copeland

There are probably either four or five spots left in the World Cup squad at this point. Or rather, one or two spots left when Jamie Heaslip, Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien get in. If Sean O'Brien can stay healthy. If Chris Henry can recover from his health problems he's the forth and probably final back row option here, but things don't sound brilliant on that front, so I'll leave him out of any discussion. Next in line are Leinster's Rhys Ruddock and Munster's Tommy O'Donnell, although the contenders list does include Robin Copeland, Robbie Diack, Jordi Murphy, and Dominic Ryan.

Scrumhalf

1. Conor Murray

2. Eoin Reddan

3. Kieran Marmion

4. Paul Marshall

5. Isaac Boss

6. James Hart

With the Irish rugby media championing Conor Murray's cause as the best scrumhalf in the world, it's unlikely that he'd be anywhere other than in the starting lineup for Ireland in 10 months time. Kieran Marmion appears to have leapfrogged Isaac Boss for Ireland's third choice scrumhalf. If then 35 year old Reddan makes it to next year then Ireland will be well served. Otherwise Ireland will be relying on inexperienced players. The likes of Leinster's Luke McGrath, Munster's Cathal Sheridan or Ulster's Paul Marshall would be next in line, unless Joe goes with France based James Hart playing for Grenoble.

Outhalf

 

1. Jonny Sexton

2. Ian Madigan

3. Paddy Jackson

4. Ian Keatley

Ireland's hopes for a first semi final at the World Cup rest on Jonny Sexton's shoulders. He is the de facto starting choice, end of discussion, Ian Madigan's impressive cameo against Australia will ensure he's at least in the 23, likely to cover both Sexton and inside centre. With 18 forwards chosen already, I had to cut one of the outhalves I would have otherwise taken, with Paddy Jackson leading Ian Keatley as next in line given Schmidt's explanation for not selecting the Ulsterman for this November series.

Inside Centre

1. Gordon D'Arcy

2. Stuart Olding

3. Luke Marshall

4. Stuart McCloskey

5. Noel Reid

With Madigan already covering at inside centre and places in the squad at a premium, it's highly likely that there will be only one specialist inside centre picked to travel. At the moment, that man is Gordon D'Arcy. His return to international rugby after a brief time out wasn't fantastic against Australia, but we should now by now that to write of the Leinsterman is foolish, and remember that his form at the start of this season was very good. The likes of Stuart Olding, Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall are fighting it out in Ulster, and whoever wins that duel will be in pole position to launch a challenge to D'Arcy.

Outside Centre

 

1. Robbie Henshaw

2. Jared Payne

Both of Ireland's centres against South Africa should make the squad as the only two outside centres. That both of them can cover full back helps the squad for versatility,but it's hard to figure out who has the upper hand between Payne and Henshaw. Henshaw probably has the edge at the moment as the incumbent on the jersey.

Wingers

1. Tommy Bowe

2. Andrew Trimble

3. Fergus McFadden

4. Dave Kearney

5. Simon Zebo

6. Craig Gilroy

7. Luke Fitzgerald

Ireland have a host of wingers, and to think Schmidt has used 5 wingers, all to big effect in his 12 months in charge. Any injury between now and when the squad is announced may seriously hamper who gets picked, as wingers, more than any other position can be picked on form. Tommy Bowe remains a class act, and has the ability to play at outside centre or fullback. Andrew Trimble's form in the last year has been brilliant, and seems to be a favourite of Schmidt's. Another favourite of Schmidt's appears to be the versatile Fergus McFadden, while Dave Kearney, Craig Gilroy, Simon Zebo and Luke Fitzgerald could be in the mix, if each of them avoid injury.

Fullbacks

 

1. Rob Kearney

2. Felix Jones

With Rob Kearney having a monopoly on the fullback jersey for Ireland, and at least four other players in the squad already who have played at fullback, it's intriguing that Felix Jones was so included in Schmidt's plans. It's highly unlikely that Jones will go from being including in the matchday squad to not included at all, but you never know.

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