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One of the more interesting conundrums facing the Irish coaching staff is their choice of props for the World Cup. Four would be too little, and though some World Cup squads have had half a dozen, that is liable to be bulky and hence too restrictive, meaning five would be the optimum number.
This was the case for the 2015 World Cup and again for the three-Test summer tour to Australia last year, which also featured five props in a 31-man squad.
In both of those examples the balance was three-two in favour of specialist tightheads, although this can only be achieved if, at least notionally, one or more of them can pack down on both sides of the scrum.
Although John Ryan, Andrew Porter and Finlay Bealham would largely be operating from memory, all started out as looseheads before being converted to tighthead, and this should stand to one, and most probably, two of them.
This “flexibility” is something that scrum coach Greg Feek admitted yesterday has been discussed with Joe Schmidt and the other coaches.
“Over the years some of those guys have been able to cover both sides and it has actually played into their hands a bit for the World Cup.
“Obviously, at the last World Cup, we all know the story with Tadhg [Furlong]. We saw it as an opportunity for Tadhg at that stage, but this time I think we’ve got some guys that have actually got some runs on the board and for me it would probably be the guy that fits that best,” said Feek at the squad’s Carton House base.
That Ireland undoubtedly have a stronger hand to pick from is best illustrated by the example o
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