Following the announcement of Andy Farrell’s 42-man Ireland training squad for the Rugby World Cup, Planet Rugby picks out the winners and losers.
Out of form wing duo
Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale may well be experienced but playing better than those in the squad and the ones left at home? Certainly not. James Lowe and Mack Hansen have the wing spots locked down for now, while Jimmy O’Brien is playing exceptionally well and Calvin Nash has shone for Munster.
Earls and Stockdale are therefore very much on the periphery, but they can still feel fortunate to be involved in the wider squad. In the case of the Ulsterman, he is only 27 and could still reach the heights which made him one of the most potent try-scorers in the game, but he has struggled to find his best this season. Perhaps their central contracts gave them the edge over the others not involved in the 42?
It has been a strange year for the lock. After playing an important part for Ireland during their historic 2-1 series victory over New Zealand and then featuring against South Africa in November, Treadwell was promptly dropped from the training squad ahead of the Six Nations.
Tadhg Beirne’s injury opened the door for him to return and he came off the bench against England in the Grand Slam decider. Although Treadwell will have a battle on his hands to get into the final 33, he may be thankful that the form Irish-qualified lock in the United Rugby Championship (URC) has not made the squad…
Much of the squad is rightfully made up of Leinster players and certainly the 23 will be strongly represented by Leo Cullen’s side, but it seems that their end-of-season play-off losses, as well as a lack of playing time, has not counted against the fringe members of the group.
Joe McCarthy and Ciaran Frawley are in despite being involved in their shock URC semi-final defeat to Munster, while Jamie Osborne makes it even though he has barely played since the end of January.
What 👏 A 👏 Step 👏
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 14, 2023
McCarthy and Osborne are exceptionally talented young players but, form-wise, they are difficult selections to justify. However, a lengthy training camp, combined with a couple of warm-up matches, may well be enough to convince the coaches.
Interestingly, Farrell has pretty much already decided on his props for the upcoming Rugby World Cup with only six named. Some teams went in with five during the previous global tournament and Andrew Porter’s experience at both loosehead and tighthead may result in one of them getting dropped, but it is a big risk to take.
Porter, Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne are the looseheads named while Tadhg Furlong, Finlay Bealham and Tom O’Toole cover the tight. They are well stocked at number three but the opposite side of the scrum is slightly more concerning, especially from an age point of view. Kilcoyne is 34 and Healy is 35, while the former has not played a part in Munster’s run to the URC title, with his last game coming at the start of April.
The most bemusing omission of all, considering his brilliance for Munster all season and his quality during their URC play-off victories. Kleyn stepped up when it mattered most and has ultimately played a key role in helping his side win a big title, something the Leinster players can’t claim to have done.
Although the South African-born lock isn’t quite as mobile as the others named in the 42, his physicality is impressive in the tighter exchanges and would provide a perfect foil for James Ryan. Ireland may well miss having that point of difference.
Munster’s URC win
Much of the squad picked itself but there were still plenty of spots open in the wider group, but form has not counted for too much. After helping the Limerick-based outfit to the title, Jeremy Loughman, John Hodnett, Mike Haley, Antoine Frisch and Shane Daly, as well as the aforementioned Kleyn, can perhaps feel hard done by.
Openside is an especially interesting call. Josh van der Flier is the only natural seven in the 42, so it is a big decision for Farrell to not, at the very least, select a back up. On form, Hodnett would have been that player but the head coach has gone for the tried and trusted in the back-row.
Robert Baloucoune and Jordan Larmour
On form, Daly and Haley are the two back three players who are the most unfortunate to miss out but, given the selections of Earls and Stockdale, Baloucoune and Larmour will feel frustrated. Neither have had the greatest seasons but they have speed, footwork and the ability to do the unexpected, a vital asset when it comes to a tight World Cup match.
They still have time on their side, though, and by the next global tournament in Australia the duo will have just turned 30, so that could be their time to shine. For now, however, they will have to watch it on their TVs back home, rather than being in the thick of the action.
𝙒𝙃𝘼𝙏. 𝘼. 𝙏𝙍𝙔 🤩
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) July 12, 2021
The decline of the Ulster centre has been stark and, to be perfectly honest, incredibly surprising. At the start of the season, most thought he would be challenging for a spot in the 23, perhaps even in the XV, but Hume’s performances have dropped off significantly.
Admittedly the 24-year-old hasn’t been helped by playing for a province that have struggled for consistency, but others – most notably midfield partner Stuart McCloskey – have still managed to impress in difficult circumstances. Let’s hope the enforced break can do Hume good and he can come back refreshed next season.