August 28, 2015
Well the answer to that is a simple one; not very. In our minds the squad should have 3 hookers and 3 scrum-halves. There is also the prop debate, i.e. should we bring 5 or 6. On this we'd go with 5. Overall we reckon a 17-14 split would be about right. And they would break down as follows.
The big question on everyone's lips here is whether Cian Healy will be fit enough to take part in even the latter stages of the competition. As one of our truly world class players he simply won't get left behind if there's any chance at all of him featuring. However that would worry us to a degree. For starters we simply don't know if he'll be back, but secondly we don't know how long it will take him to get match fit and back to his best. He can sometimes take a few weeks to shake the cobwebs off and in the meantime has been known to show a certain amount of impatience and aggression. For us if he is to travel he simply has to feature in one of the opening 2 games. If that is not going to happen he should stay home.
If Healy doesn't travel then Dave Kilcoyne will be in the squad. A similar player to Healy, Kilcoyne lacks the sheer quality that the Leinster man has and has been known to give away the odd penalty from time to time as well. However he is a powerful and pacey (for a prop) ball carrier which Ireland will need if Healy isn't there. Jack McGrath is on the plane as well and will start the big games if Healy isn't available.
At tighthead Mike Ross is a certainty with Marty Moore a doubt due to injury. Moore may feature off the bench against Wales, but if he doesn't his RWC hopes are all but gone. In his place Nathan White will be called up. White can be more like a loosehead in open play which could provide Ireland with some options in that area.
Michael Bent will then travel as the final prop covering both sides of the scrum. A bit of an unsung hero at Leinster last season (except for on here!) the guy really stepped up and proved his worth even when things weren't going well at the Province.
Selections: Healy/Kilcoyne, McGrath, Ross, Moore/White, Bent
As we mentioned above we would favour taking 3 hookers, and there is absolutely no question which 3. About the only question marks here are around who takes the 16 shirt. Strauss looks to be getting back to his best and could be pushing Cronin here.
Selections: Best, Cronin, Strauss
Like hooker the lock role is pretty much tied down. Going into the start of July Tuohy was probably ahead of Ryan based on game time and his experience in Ireland camp under Joe. However it now looks like Ryan has put himself ahead of Tuohy and is hitting form at the right time.
Selections: O'Connell, Toner, Henderson, Ryan
The back row was unfortunately made far easier by the injury to Tommy O'Donnell against Wales. It really only leaves 5 guys in the running for 5 places. While Jack Conan was in camp and got his debut against Scotland he was never really going to travel unless there were injuries to the others. Other injuries, particularly Rhys Ruddock, has removed all doubt on who will go here.
Selections: O'Mahony, O'Brien, Heaslip, Murphy, Henry
Randomly there were rumours circulating in the last week or so that Ireland would take just 2 scrum halves to the World Cup. Ian Madigan was then supposedly going to cover that position along with 10, 12 and 15.Put simply that is not going to happen, or at least should not happen. We expect to see 3 scrum halves travel. The big question here is whether the Irish coaches want to see Marmion one last time before making the call or are they happy to go with Isaac Boss. We suspect Boss will get the nod here although we would like to see Marmion get a chance to prove himself against Wales. Either way an injury to Conor Murray would probably be a hammer blow to Ireland's chances in the competition as he has become one of the best in the game in his position.
Selections: Murray, Reddan, Boss
Another pretty straight forward one here. Sexton is one of the best in the world and next to Conor Murray are arguably the best half back combination going at the moment (although I'm sure Smith and Carter would have something to say about that). Jackson gets a hard time from some for his kicking, but it's not a big an issue as some portray it. Plus in open play the guy can read the game really well and his passing is an utter joy to watch. If Sexton is injured or unavailable then Jackson for us slots into the 10 jersey. Madigan has shown up really well though and must really be putting the pressure on. Some high profile errors against Scotland were accompanied by some great moments and an overall game that was fairly accomplished, even if he didn't utilise a bit of tactical kicking at times. Either way, all 3 travel.
Selections: Sexton, Jackson, Madigan
Ireland's first choice centres is all but set in stone at this point. Henshaw has been a revelation for Ireland and we can't wait to see how he does on the highest stage. Payne has been more quietly effecient but has still shown that he deserves the jersey. It's the back ups that we need to look at here. Earls played at 13 against Wales and did a very fine job against poor opposition. Word has it today though that he will be playing on the wing this weekend with Luke Fitzgerald slotting into 13. If this is true it begs the question is Joe looking to bring one or the other? For now we've assumed that Earls is the back-up 13 and Fitzgerald will be included as a back 3 player.
Darren Cave and Gordon D'Arcy both featured at 12, with the rumour being Henshaw will play against Wales on Saturday. D'Arcy is finished at this level sadly. A true Leinster and Ireland legend who this particular blogger has been a massive fan of for years, but time waits for no man. Madigan has only played 10 minutes at 12 so far so does this mean he isn't being looked as a starter in that shirt for the opening games? Questions now abound regarding who fills in at 12 when Henshaw is rested and what does that mean for the rest of the squad. This is an area we haven't developed much depth in. We'll come back to that one...
Selections: Henshaw, Payne, Earls
There are a couple of players here who are guaranteed to travel at this stage. Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney have been ever present the last few years and this is unlikely to change. Simon Zebo has shown some real class at times as well as versatility. It's a fair bet that he has beaten out Felix Jones. Luke Fitzgerald and Andrew Trimble would seem to be the other 2 guys that are being primed for seats on the infamous plane, although Trimbles fitness has yet to be proven. With Dave Kearney waiting in the wings Trimble has a lot of work to do. Apparently Dave has been excellent in training and is set to get a start on Saturday while Trimble will have to make do with a bench place. You would have to say at this stage though that if Trimble can prove his fitness he will travel ahead of Dave Kearney. Otherwise Rob will be heading over to the UK with his brother.
Selections: Fitzgerald, Bowe, R Kearney, Zebo, Trimble/D Kearney
So that's 31 players. But what of the centres we discussed earlier. Does that mean that Darren Cave doesn't go and we don't have proper cover for the 12 shirt? Or does it mean that Madigan will step in to 12 for the opening games? Maybe the rumours about this weekend are wrong and Fitzgerald will be named at 12. He's played there before under Joe, most notably 4 years ago when the Irish squad were in New Zealand at the last World Cup and he made an impression at Leinster in D'Arcys absence. While last season he only played at 11 and 13 it wouldn't be a massive surprise to see him play at 12 against Wales. If he was to be named there it would actually round out the squad quite well. The honest truth is we have no idea how that will work. There are options there, but how Joe chooses to use them will be interesting.
Regardless we still expect that these names are the ones we'll see on Monday when the squad is announced. We'd love to hear your thoughts. Who has been excluded here that should be travelling or who doesn't deserve a place in the final squad? You tell us.
Ireland 31 man RWC squad:
Cian Healy/Dave Kilcoyne
Marty Moore/Nathan White
Andrew Trimble/Dave Kearney