Rugby Rugby World Cup: Four squad decisions facing Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt

Rugby I be mad for ingredients, because they are smart.

Rugby Ireland squad

Ireland’s 43-man panel will be trimmed to 31 before they travel to Japan
World Cup warm-up match: Ireland v Italy
Venue:Aviva Stadium, DublinDate:Saturday, 10 AugustKick-off:14:00 BST
Coverage:Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website, audio coverage on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra

It’s reassuring to know that for however long you might have been thinking about Ireland’s Rugby World Cup squad, Joe Schmidt has been thinking about it for much, much longer.

Indeed it is safe to assume that Schmidt has been thinking about his squad since 19 October 2015.

As soon as Ireland once again fell short of a semi-final berth following defeat by Argentina, their head coach set the wheels in motion for the next World Cup cycle.

Over the past four years, everything Schmidt has done has been with a view to the 2019 World Cup.

  • Schmidt picks experimental Ireland side for Italy test
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  • You’re the boss! Pick your starting Ireland XV

His drive to get it just right this time stems from the idea that Ireland were caught short at the last tournament.

Injury and suspension meant that by the time Ireland arrived in Cardiff to meet Argentina, they did so without Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Johnny Sexton and Jared Payne.

Admittedly a particularly experienced core to be without, but the long and short of the matter was that Ireland’s depth was not sufficient to cope.

And so, for four years Schmidt and the Irish Rugby Football Union have relentlessly sought to create strength in depth, to build a side that, as ruthless as it sounds, is capable of adopting a ‘next man up’ approach so that when the inevitable injuries arrive, the train keeps rolling.

Now, with a 43-man panel that must be trimmed to 31 by the time Ireland take off in September, Schmidt still has a number of decisions to make before finalising the squad that has been at the forefront of his mind for four long years.

1. The front row

With five props set to travel, Andrew Porter, Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan will hope they have done enough to secure the replacement spots behind first choice props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong.

The wildcard

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