Rugby Rúaidhrí O’Connor’s predicted World Cup squad: Joe Schmidt to make big calls for Japan

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Rugby Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Devin Toner of Ireland high fives James Ryan
Joey Carbery faces a race to recover from an ankle injury picked up against Italy
Roaring back: James Ryan celebrates Ireland’s second try scored by Jacob Stockdale at Cardiff on Saturday. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Big decisions loom and, for Joe Schmidt, the deadline is fast approaching. The first thing he will do is get a clear assessment of the fitness of his squad. Once he’s established that the players he wants to bring are fit and available, he’ll move on to the key areas of contention.

Joey Carbery and Keith Earls are the chief concerns, but both men stepped up their workload last week and both are expected to be on the list of names submitted to World Rugby at some stage today.

Cian Healy’s ankle is not expected to limit his involvement at the World Cup, while Schmidt says it is highly likely that Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton will see action against Wales on Saturday.

As he watches the action on his final outing at the Aviva Stadium as coach, he’ll have his fingers crossed that he won’t have to make any amendments. In 2016, he lost a host of players in the PRO12 final between Leinster and Connacht and had to alter his squad on the eve of departure for South Africa and he doesn’t want to repeat that experience.

This morning, however, he’ll sit down with his coaches for the last time to consider the selection and he has some crunch calls to make.

Outside backs

Ireland will take five half-backs to Japan, leaving nine spaces for outside backs. If we consider Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, Jacob Stockdale, Earls and Rob Kearney safe, then there are three spots between Chris Farrell, Will Addison, Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway.

Dave Kearney, for all of his effort, seems a long shot at this remove.

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Much will depend on the shape of what Schmidt wants to do, whether he wants four out-and-out centres for a bruising pool schedule or feels he would be better off with the guile and pace out wide.

Read more here:

  • On the plane to Japan: Joe Schmidt aims to keep World Cup squad under wraps for a week
  • There was energy, a bounce we haven’t seen for a while – Stockdale 

Will Addison’s performance at full-back on Saturday certainly gave him food for thought. The Ulster back hadn’t played since January due to back surgery and he wasn’t flawless, but his balanced running style ad

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