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Analysis: Cardiff success underlines Ireland loosehead depth

Analysis: Cardiff success underlines Ireland loosehead depth
  • Ireland got back to winning ways with a 22-17 success over Wales
  • Dave Kilcoyne was influential in the first half, helping to set up the first try
  • Andrew Porter made a huge impact in the scrum after coming on

If Saturday represented the last chance to stake a claim for a place on the plane to Japan, a host of Ireland players seized their opportunity.

And perhaps no spot will be more fiercely contested than loosehead prop where Joe Schmidt is overflowing with options.

When Cian Healy was forced off early against England last weekend, there must have been real fears that his World Cup was in jeopardy given the proximity of the competition.

However those fears were quickly allayed, with the experienced Leinster prop suffering a sprained ankle and expected to be ready for the second meeting with Wales in Dublin this weekend.

If Healy’s place on the plane to Japan is guaranteed, the battle behind him has been raging with a trio of players all pushing for inclusion.

Jack McGrath was the man who came on at Twickenham and has the pedigree as a 2017 British & Irish Lion.

But on Saturday in Cardiff he saw two more players do everything they could to try to leapfrog him in the pecking order as Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter played a major part in the 22-17 success.

Munster loosehead Kilcoyne was everywhere in the first half, racking up seven carries, two clean breaks and five defenders beaten, not to mention nine tackles, before coming off on 45 minutes.

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That included one break that eventually led to the first Ireland try for Jacob Stockdale, and after featuring in every game of the Guinness Six Nations, Kilcoyne will be hopeful of making the final 31.

THE VERSATILE PORTER

The man who replaced him at Principality Stadium was Porter, more commonly used as a tighthead on the Test stage.

The Leinster player has backed up Tadhg Furlong at club and international level in that role, but as a youngster was a destructive loosehead prop.

He showed that off against Wales, dominating both Leon Brown and Samson Lee in the scrum to eventually earn the penalty try that proved crucial in the final outcome.

The 23-year-old’s ability to cover both sides of the scrum was always likely to ensure he made the cut for Schmidt’s 31.

And it now looks difficult to see how he could miss out on the matchday 23 considering the impact he can make coming off the bench on either side of the scrum.

Schmidt has admitted that the next couple of days will be difficult trying to trim the squad down for the tournament in Japan.

The Ireland coach has four top operators at his disposal at loosehead prop and it will not be easy cutting that down to three.