The Unlucky Men Who Have Missed Out On Andy Farrell's Irish Squad

By Colman Stanley

The post-squad announcement hullabaloo is upon us, and it is an apt time to dissect Farrell’s picks, while our outrage hormones are running wild and social media abuzz with hot takes and drivel.

But, despite what you may read on Twitter, Farrell has proved himself a wily selector during his tenure as the head coach of the Irish rugby team, and there is logic and reason behind his choices.

There have certainly been more controversial squads throughout the years, and there are no bolters who have truly been hard done by this time around. Jack Carty is injured, and I think most of us have fully processed that John Cooney will not be part of Andy Farrell’s plans.

However, while no player has a divine right to be selected, there are a handful of in-form men who can count themselves unlucky not to have made the plane to New Zealand.

Here we have picked such players and look at some of the reasons, such as Irish-squad experience and variety, as to why they have missed out on selection.

Mike Haley

3 June 2022; Irish rugby: Mike Haley of Munster reacts during the United Rugby Championship Quarter-Final match between Ulster and Munster at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Haley seemed to be heading for New Zealand after it was revealed that Mike Lowry had suffered a potentially serious facial injury against the Sharks. Clearly it is not as serious as first thought.

However, Haley may be Farrell’s biggest regret of this tour. What keeps Keenan’s value, and Kearney’s before him, so high, is his assuredness at 15. We see their name on the team sheet and we are put at ease. Their aerial skills, positioning, and defence set them apart from others.

Lowry hasn’t fully proven himself in these areas, while Larmour has shown to be lacking in these qualities, and Jimmy O’Brien is coming off the back of his worst ever game for Leinster. Haley has been a rock at the back for Munster this season, and Farrell may rue a lack of solidity at 15 if Keenan was to get injured.

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Having said this, Lowry is fully deserved of his place after a season which included a place on the European Player of the Year shortlist, and a barnstorming debut for his country. O’Brien is also there on merit and is the most versatile back in the country, and Larmour will be used primarily as a winger.

I don’t think this was Haley’s last chance however before the World Cup, as I suspect Farrell will feel the need call upon his special set of skills at some stage. We also may see Frawley tried at 15 during the upcoming tour.

Stuart McCloskey

One of the most consistently excellent but unlucky players in the country. A guaranteed gain-line breaker with soft hands and a wealth of experience. His weakness is that he plays at centre, the toughest position in the 23 to break into.

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Aki, Henshaw, and Ringrose are all world-class, two of them are nearly always fit, and they are rarely out of form. All three have a rapport with each other on the pitch no matter the combination.

Hume has been the in-form Irish centre this season in a provincial sense, and impossible to leave out. While McCloskey is probably a superior player to Frawley, the Leinsterman offers that aforementioned facet, variety. If McCloskey won’t be in the first-choice 23 it makes sense to try out the second player maker option with the in-form Frawley, who can also slot in at 10 and 15.

Harry vs Ross

4 June 2022; Irish rugby: Ross Byrne, left, and Harry Byrne of Leinster before the United Rugby Championship Quarter-Final match between Leinster and Glasgow Warriors at RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

It seems the further Harry Byrne’s provincial stature falls, the more international recognition he gets (I'm half joking). After a blistering start to his professional career, his form dipped somewhat, although he has had some recent good showings in the URC.

His brother Ross, despite starting ahead of him for Leinster, appears to be tried and tested by Farrell and has not passed said test, while Billy Burns who was capped multiple times during the early stages of Farrell’s reign seems to be suffering the same fate.

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From a Munster perspective, Jack Crowley simply does not have the experience, while Ben Healy, despite playing at a more competitive level than Harry this season, hasn’t been quite good enough to force himself into the international frame.

Harry does look to be coming back into form, but a large part of the reason he is in the squad is a lack of 'top-class' quality from his competitors.

Ross Molony and Co.

Ireland’s second-string second-row is possibly the most competitive area in the squad with a host of players at a similar level doing battle for a place on the plane. McCarthy, Treadwell, Molony, Wycherley, and Kleyn were all in the frame to make the squad.

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Alan O’Connor name was not bandied about as much, despite starting ahead of Treadwell for Ulster. This also adds to the unluckiness of Molony and the surprise of is non-inclusion.

However, as mentioned above, Treadwell’s Irish squad experience after being in camp for the entire Six Nations, has clearly benefitted him.

Jack O’Donoghue

21 May 2022; Irish rugby: Jack O'Donoghue of Munster leaves the pitch after the United Rugby Championship match between Leinster and Munster at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The backrower was announced today as the Munster Player of the Season, and deservedly so. He shone consistently throughout the Champions Cup, and his non-selection further highlights the insane competition of the international back-row.

Unfortunately for O’Donoghue, he teammate Gavin Coombes offers a ball-carrying ability that is invaluable at the highest level. Nick Timoney was helped with a fine performance against the Stormers on Saturday and also offers a blistering turn of pace. Cian Prendergast occupies the space for a ‘bolter’.

JOD's age and the fact that he has been around so long may count against him, as Farrell sees more upside in the other three.

Ryan Baird has also been selected as a back-row, leaving even less room to make the backrow.

Unlucky Bolters?

There are no young bolters who can consider themselves ‘desperately’ unlucky, but there are a few who may have felt they could have sneaked into the squad.

Nathan Doak is one them, although unless Farrell was to bring four scrumhalves, it never looked entirely likely.

Alex Kendellen was superb for Munster at the highest level of European club rugby this season, despite being less than a year out from U20s. The former U20s captain has excelled at each step up and can still force his way into the World Cup squad. Prendergast, who occupies the ‘backrow bolter’ space, benefits from his inclusion in the Six Nations squad as a development player, where he clearly impressed Farrell.

Scott Penny would have been the darkest of horses to make the squad, but he did outplay Kendellen in an interesting duel between the two a few weeks back, and could be in camp in the near future.

SEE ALSO: 2022/23 Champions Cup Format Largely Unchanged From Last Year

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