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Ireland 2023 Rugby World Cup Squad

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 20th, 2023 at 12:49:00 PM EST

Andy Farrell is due to announce his final 33 man world cup squad next Monday after Ireland's final warm up match against Samoa on Saturday. No doubt some fringe players will get another chance to impress on Saturday, but the vast bulk of the  squad will have been pencilled in on his World Rugby squad notification form.

Ireland play at least one less warm up match than most other nations in the belief that the risk of injury to key players is too high. Ireland's previous World Cup debacles have been caused, in large measure, by injuries to key players. Instead, the focus has been on very intensive training sessions and a science led fitness programme.

Ireland is assisted in this approach by the fact that our first match is against a lowly ranked Romanian side which will effectively act as a final warm-up for players like Jonny Sexton (currently suspended) and Kilcoyne, Kelleher, Sheehan, and Conan, (currently  said to be carrying minor knocks).

France don't have that luxury, their first match being against perennial contenders, New Zealand. They have already paid a price for their tougher warm up programme with star 10, Roman Ntamack, injured and out of the tournament. England have lost Jack van Portvliet and South Africa have lost Lukhanyo Am, Andre Pollard, and Lood de Jager. As against that Captain, Siya Kolisi, made an almost miraculous recovery to start against Wales.

In comparison to many countries, the Irish squad has been a picture of stability. England are in crisis with red card disciplinary processes in train against key experienced players Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola, the only specialist 8 in their squad. Wales have lost a host of experienced players to injury, age, form, and de-selection and were trounced by South Africa on Saturday.

Australia's coach, Eddie Jones, has lost every match of his brief tenure, has lost his  attack coach Brad Davis ,and has now has left Captain Michael Hooper and experienced 10 Quade Cooper out of his squad. Just our luck that Champions South Africa and Scotland, ranked four and five in the world and our main rivals in our group, have both been in good form.

Ireland's first two warm up matches against Italy and England have gone as well as could be expected. Nearly all the squad have gotten some much needed match practice and a few fringe players have been given an opportunity to stake their claim. We haven't copped any serious injuries or had players sent off. Farrell had a look at Doris at 7 and Prendergast at 8. Both options worked well but are strictly for emergencies.

The performances weren't brilliant but neither did we show our hand too much. There are plenty of work-ons with regard to lineouts, mauls and re-starts. A few selection issues may have been clarified and younger players got much needed experience. It's not often a 29-10,  5 tries to 1 win against England is regarded with some disappointment. Changed times!

Farrell has already culled five from his original 42 man training squad. Caolin Blade, Jamie Osborne, Kieran Treadwell, Calvin Nash, and Gavin Coombes won't be seeing any game time, although Blade did well against Italy. I feel particularly sorry for Coombes. He is a brilliant player but has a different style which doesn't seem to fit the game plan. His day will come. Treadwell did well in New Zealand but seems to have lost out to the emerging Joe McCarthy.

For my money, the remaining players most at risk in the remaining cull are Tom Stewart (currently covering for Kelleher and Sheehan), Frawley (covering for Sexton), Stockdale (losing out to Earls) and McCloskey (losing out to Aki). (Loughman is currently covering for the inured Kilcoyne, and one of them will miss out). This assumes a 19/14 forwards to backs split, which seems to be the norm. I would have had Prendergast in the `at risk' category , but he performed well against England having lost the ball in contact twice early in the match.

This yields a final 33 man squad on the following lines, with selected players in bold and back up players  in Italics:

  1. Porter, Healy, Kilcoyne, Loughman
  2. Sheehan, Kelleher, Herring, Tom Stewart
  3. Furlong, Bealham, O'Toole, Salanoa,
  4. Ryan, McCarthy, Treadwell
  5. Beirne, Henderson, Baird
  6. O'Mahony, Prendergast
  7. Van der Flier
  8. Doris, Conan, Coombes
  9. Gibson-Park, Casey, Murray, Blade
  10. Sexton, Crowley, Ross Byrne, Frawley,
  11. Lowe, Earls, Stockdale
  12. Henshaw, Aki, McCloskey
  13. Ringrose, Osborne
  14. Hansen, Nash
  15. Keenan, O'Brien

Ulster fans will be particularly disappointed, having missed out on quite a few marginal calls. There is an argument for bringing McCloskey as a fourth centre, as our centres have been injury prone. But bringing a specialist 12 would leave us short elsewhere. Crowley, Earls and O'Brien can all play centre if required. The only way I can see of making room for him would be to leave out Baird and go for an 18/15 split. That too would seem harsh. Baird played well in the Grand Slam win against England.

The major weakness in the squad is a lack of a specialist 7 to cover for Van Der Flier, Timoney being deemed not good enough. O'Mahony and Doris have both played there with some success, but that could take away from their contribution elsewhere. Baird, too, has the pace to play the role, but isn't a natural ground hog.

Elsewhere, Farrell has gradually been plugging weaknesses in the squad. Bealham and O'Toole have made great progress at 3. Stewart could yet unseat an established 2 through injury. McCarthy is no Nick Skelton but has been starting to deliver on his early promise. We have a mobile rather than a huge pack like France or South Africa but seem to be able to hold our own in line-out, scrum and maul most of the time. I would like to see more invention in our kick off plays.

Our backline has generally delivered the goods, both individually and collectively, but rely on collective cohesion, intelligence, and organisation rather than outstanding individual talent. We don't have a Dupont, Kolbe, Van Der Merwe or Penaud. But then we don't have an Atonio or Skelton up front either.

What characterised this Irish team is their collective togetherness, cohesion, and experience. Not for us wholesale changes or shock omissions. That advantage may fade as other teams spend more time in camp together during the world cup, but history has shown that can as easily lead to bust-ups as everlasting friendships.

Would Leinster have won the European Cup had Sexton been playing? We will never know, but Leinster would hardly have continued bashing mindlessly against a bigger La Rochelle pack had he demanded the ball for a drop goal. Byrne doesn't have the same authority, even if he is well respected in the team. But Can Sexton continue to perform after a long lay-off and at age 38?

I would have had Ireland favourites for the World Cup had we been drawn in the other half of the tournament. Argentina seem to be the only side going well on that side of the draw. Historically Ireland have not been able to sustain the highest levels of performance for a long period in a world cup. Tough matches and injuries to key players take their toll.

Our last warm-up match against Samoa, and Pool match against Tonga will be no gimmes. Tonga have Israel Folau, Malakai Fekitoa, and a host of former All Blacks in their squad and are a very physical side. Some injuries can be expected. Scotland were outstanding against France, and South Africa seem to be coming good at the right time.

And if we get past that lot France at home, or a resurgent All Black side await. At our best we could beat the lot, but it will be close and possibly decided by a controversial refereeing decision. Let's hope that good rugby wins out, and injuries don't decide our fate. This Irish squad is the best I have ever seen.

A lot of World Cup play comes down to a two-step process: 1) stay healthy long enough to become a cohesive side, and 2) keep staying healthy.  Above a certain level all the sides have equivalent individual skills (and Ireland are above that level) and it comes down to how the ball bounces, but it's amazing how much better it bounces for healthy players.  And you're right about Tonga and Samoa.  Any time you play a side that can field a bunch of two-legged geological features, you know you've been through a match.
by rifek on Mon Aug 21st, 2023 at 09:58:51 PM EST
For all the reasons you state, I rank Ireland as favourites, but to be honest I hardly ever see New Zealand or South Africa play... France seems to be the only country in the world that has international rugby for free on TV ! That is a tragic state of affairs for the sport.

Or France, of course.

Ireland is certainly the most solid and capable team on the planet. But I fear I am of the "individual brilliance" school, and I'm not saying that this is lacking with the Irish, but it seems to be formatted to the point of near invisibility...

Relying on individual brilliance is of course a vulnerability, and France without Emile Ntamack will have different game plans.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Aug 22nd, 2023 at 10:47:05 AM EST
France have to be favourites for me, followed by NZ and SA and then Ireland - all in the same half of the draw.. Argentina/Australia have an easy ride to the Semi but will probably come unstuck then. I have Ireland winning in my fictional narrative. I hope I don't have to re-write. Current plan is to publish on Amazon/Kindle by December. It will have to be a last minute edit..

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 22nd, 2023 at 05:44:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Breaking : Handré Pollard and Lukhanyo Am are apparently fit to play after all!

I immensely enjoyed their showing against "Wales B" (who were as good as they could be on Saturday). They play exciting rugby. Anything can happen.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Aug 22nd, 2023 at 10:49:10 AM EST
Problem for Wales is that they don't have an 'A' side...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 22nd, 2023 at 05:45:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No but they can sing "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" in four parts at the drop of a hat.
by rifek on Wed Aug 23rd, 2023 at 02:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 23rd, 2023 at 10:08:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well the Springboks certainly flattened the All Blacks at Twickenham.
by rifek on Sun Aug 27th, 2023 at 08:11:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Historic. Biggest AB defeat by anyone, ever, if I've understood correctly.

I'm considering renouncing my NZ citizenship.

I wondered if anyone had ever done that before, and there's a web page for it.

There is a fee of $398.60 (that's more than €200, so not this month then)

I'm only joking... the reason would not be shame on my part, but the absence of shame. I was emotionally uninvolved, just full of admiration, even delight, for the Springboks. They are definitely contenders to defend their title.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 28th, 2023 at 10:51:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I never understood the initial dismissal of red card for Owen Farrell, a game where sportsmanship and the referee stands in high regard.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Wed Aug 23rd, 2023 at 05:20:57 AM EST
It made no sense and was swiftly overturned after a public outcry. He has a reputation for illegal tackles like that and has previously got away with it thanks to good lawyering and his status as England captain. Even his current 4 match suspension is unduly lenient. The match officials got it right. It was the backroom boys which sought to subvert their judgement and threatened to put the game into disrepute.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 23rd, 2023 at 10:07:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yeah what's the "independent commission", and of whom is it independent?


Crucially, the panel determined the suspension should be backdated to include last week's defeat by Ireland, even though Farrell could have appeared in Dublin.

The reversal is not unexpected to Borthwick, then.

If they had let the let-off stand, it would have sabotaged the new "bunker" system, which I think is an excellent innovation : automatic yellow card for head-high tackles, upgradeable to a red by video refs within the ten minute suspension time.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Aug 23rd, 2023 at 11:22:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A fascinating weekend of rugby.
Of course, these are only dress-rehearsal games, quite meaningless...
But England will still be England in two weeks' time, i.e. rubbish.

And now they are decidedly a second-tier nation, until further notice.

I thought it might be a turning point when they brought Marky Smith on (a new face in hell!) and he immediately scored a try... then I realised that he hadn't replaced poor old Ford (Anglia? Prefect?), but was playing at fullback...

The treatment of Smith by both Eddie Jones and Borthwick is a striking example of what's wrong in the England team. He's the most exciting thing to happen to England in recent years, and apparently he's too talented and creative to fit into whatever clunky system they are trying, and failing, to create...

But probably the main problem with England (and probably not just its rugby team) is its financial engineering.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 28th, 2023 at 11:02:10 AM EST
so, England were chastened by Fiji : 22-30
Their first defeat against this (or any) of the "second-tier" Pacific nations.

New Zealand looked poor against an exceptionally dynamic South Africa, 7 - 35, their biggest defeat in history against a nation that beats them as often as not.

France looked good against an Australian team which is clearly not in the hunt for the title this year, but showed spirit and flair (what has happened to my sporting nationalism? Compliments for an Australian team now?)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 28th, 2023 at 02:10:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Irish v Orange tonight @LansdowneRd ... any prediction?

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Sep 10th, 2023 at 05:54:13 PM EST
After 120 sec ... penalty 1-0 😅

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Sep 10th, 2023 at 06:55:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First attack by Dutch on counter ... penalty ... 1-1

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Sep 10th, 2023 at 07:08:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland the better team first half ... Orange recovered somewhat and a 2nd goal decided the match ... tough for the loyal green army.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Sep 10th, 2023 at 08:49:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't watch it. Too busy. Only have time to follow one sport!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 11th, 2023 at 04:21:05 PM EST
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A  bit of multitasking ... don't watch the game intensely .... you did convince me to watch Rugby Union ... France v. New Zealand ... exciting match ... yellow card ended it for NZ where France played w more intensity and drive forward with ball possession.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Mon Sep 11th, 2023 at 04:28:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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