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The Updated Irish Rugby Depth Chart Hints At A Brighter Future For Irish Rugby

The Updated Irish Rugby Depth Chart Hints At A Brighter Future For Irish Rugby
By Conor O'Leary

A lot has changed in Irish Rugby in just a year. Connacht are now the kingpins, with Munster languishing and fearful of the future.

That might be making sweeping generalisations, but it's interesting that Connacht's season has seen them rewarded with more representatives in the recent Ireland training squad - with others closing in on consideration.

With Finlay Bealham's fantastic showing against Munster showing to the Irish public why he's been included - and Denis Buckley continuing his form, it was time to revisit the Irish Rugby Depth Chart. Given that Schmidt named a 44-man squad for a pre-summer training session already - it's a little easier to see what he is thinking.

Remember - this is a representative of how Schmidt sees his squad - not what we'd do. We'd have both James Cronin and Denis Buckley higher - to name a few.

So what's changed in a year? Well, it appears that the injuries to certain backs like Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald have severely hindered their progress - while Darren Cave has been shut out all together. Some players used missing out on the World Cup squad to spring themselves into the reckoning - like Josh van der Flier, Luke Marshall, and Andrew Trimble.

Front Row

Jack McGrath's excellent consistency has finally seen him jump Cian Healy, but the majority of fans would have wanted more change in the front row. Mike Ross is still the number one number three, and Strauss looks like he's ahead of Sean Cronin at hooker.

Second Row

It's all change in the second row, with Connacht's influence replacing Paul O'Connell. Dave Foley hasn't kicked on like he was expected, and has seen Roux, Dillane, and others leapfrog him. We've seen the future in impressive Leinster lock Ross Molony, and Ireland U-20 captain James Ryan - but they are a year or too away yet.

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Back Row

Peter O'Mahony's importance was underlined by his inclusion in the Ireland camp despite being ruled out until September. The biggest talking point is at openside flanker, which seems a very tricky position to figure out. Tommy O'Donnell, Josh van der Flier, and Jordi Murphy have all gone ahead of Ulster's Chris Henry - and Schmidt's preferred man seems to change a lot.

Half-Backs

Nothing has changed at the half-backs. Which is kind of upsetting. Schmidt is determined to keep with 35-year-old Eoin Reddan over Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath, while Paddy Jackson's career year has gone unnoticed by the Irish staff.

Outside Backs

It's the backs outside of Sexton and Murray that have seen the most change. Gone are Bowe, Fitzgerald, and Cave - in favour for McCloskey, Matt Healy, and Simon Zebo all jumping up the pecking order. There's still a definite top string with Henshaw, Payne, and Kearney at 12, 13, and 15.

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It's possibily more interesting to project what will change in two years time. Where will Bundee Aki rank? What about Tyler Bleyendaal, or Jake Heenan? Wiehahn Herbst is another who should be monitored - will Louis Ludik be considered? What about the next generation? Where will Garry Ringrose rise to? Or Ross Molony? Or Galway's Sean O'Brien. Munster's Rory Scannell should have another two years of development under him, but will have to compete with Sam Arnold at Munster.

It may have been a bad year for the majority of Irish Rugby, but the building blocks for success are there for all teams. We just need some patience.

See Also: The Biggest Transfer Need For Each Irish Rugby Province

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