Talking points from Ireland’s Rugby World Cup squad

Ireland became the final Guinness Six Nations side to announce their Rugby World Cup squad following their third and final warm-up victory.

Ireland became the final Guinness Six Nations side to announce their Rugby World Cup squad following their third and final warm-up victory.

Head coach Andy Farrell had already reduced the squad down to 38 ahead of Saturday’s match against Samoa in Bayonne and following that 17-13 success, he revealed his final 33-man squad for France.

Drawn in Pool B, alongside reigning champions South Africa, Scotland, Tonga and Romania, it is certainly not going to be a straightforward passage to the knockout stages.

With less than two weeks before their World Cup opener with Romania, what are the talking points from Farrell’s squad?

Healy injury a blow

Samoa are a physical side and Ireland will have been hoping to get through unscathed – but that was sadly not the case.

Loosehead prop Cian Healy, who limped off with what appeared to be an ankle injury after a scrum collapsed on Saturday, has been ruled out in what is a major loss for Farrell and Ireland.

With 125 caps to his name, Healy had starred in his role as a ‘finisher’, coming off the bench for Andrew Porter and securing the scrums, but he will not be doing so in France.

Munster duo Jeremy Loughman and Dave Kilcoyne will now battle it out for that spot, and while both are excellent operators, as shown with their URC triumph, Healy leaves big shoes to fill.

Sheehan and Conan named despite injury issues

The big worry prior to Samoa was whether Grand Slam stars Dan Sheehan and Jack Conan would recover from their injuries sustained in the Summer Nations Series.

Fortunately for Ireland, they appear to at least be ready for the latter stages of the group stage, allowing Farrell to pick them.

You would expect both of them to be included in the 23 to take on South Africa and Scotland and – providing those matches go to plan for Farrell’s side – beyond.

First choice XV to be ready for South Africa and Scotland tests

Those two players being fit for the squad raises the chances of Farrell being able to name a first choice XV for those crucial matches at the latter end of the group stage.

Ireland don’t face the Springboks until September 23 and Scotland two weeks later, allowing those two players almost another month to get up to full speed.

With captain Johnny Sexton back after his suspension and no other injuries in the starting XV of note, Ireland will be hoping they can get through Romania and Tonga with no further injuries and get into their stride at just the right time for those two mammoth matches.

Centurion Earls gets nod over Stockdale

Keith Earls was able to celebrate his 100th cap in style against England a week ago but he made it clear he did not want that to be the end of his World Cup campaign.

James Lowe, Mack Hansen, Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien all seemed assured of their places, which were confirmed by Farrell when the squad was named, but questions remained over whether to select Earls or Jacob Stockdale for the final spot.

In the end, experience prevailed and Earls was selected for what will be his fourth World Cup – can he finally go beyond the last eight?

2019 disappointment can fuel Ireland to record heights

Ireland were in a good spot before the 2019 Rugby World Cup, having won the Grand Slam in 2018 and defeating New Zealand in Dublin.

But when it came to Japan, they were unable to hit those heights, losing to the hosts in the group before a humbling defeat to the All Blacks in the quarter-finals.

It is well documented that Ireland have never made it further than that stage and heading into the tournament as the number one side, they will be desperate to ensure that does not happen again.

Drawn in a difficult group and on the same side of the draw as France and New Zealand, it will not be easy but Farrell will hope lessons have been learnt from four years ago.