Three to watch ahead of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup squad announcement

Farrell 2000
Ireland are set to follow their Guinness Six Nations rivals and name their squad for the upcoming Rugby World Cup next Monday.

Ireland are set to follow their Guinness Six Nations rivals and name their squad for the upcoming Rugby World Cup next Monday.

The world’s top-ranked team have one of the most settled sides in the tournament, with Andy Farrell pencilling in his first-choice 23 long before they begin their campaign against Romania in Bordeaux on September 9.

But a Rugby World Cup squad requires 33 men and while Farrell will largely know the make-up of his whole squad, there are still a few who will be nervously hoping to secure their spot.

We look below at three players who will be hoping to force their way in before the squad is announced.

1.       Cian Prendergast

One of the few players outside of the so-called ‘first XV’ involved against England, back row Cian Prendergast faces stiff competition.

Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris are all but assured of their place barring injury and with Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson likely to go too and able to cover blindside, that leaves at most two spots.

Jack Conan is facing a race against time to be fit following injury sustained against Italy on August 5 but, assuming he wins that race, that leaves Prendergast on the brink.

A hugely talented prospect, he showed his credentials against England in Dublin last weekend to throw his hand into the mix for what may be the 19th forward spot in Farrell’s squad.

Whether he makes it or not, Prendergast is destined to be a crucial part of the Ireland squad post World-Cup and beyond but he will be hoping he has done enough to force his way in.

2.       Dan Sheehan

It may seem ridiculous to suggest that Sheehan may not be included in Farrell’s squad, considering he is very much the first-choice hooker, but he is another facing a rather pressing fitness race.

The 24-year-old limped off injured after 37 minutes on Saturday with a foot injury and it is not yet known the severity of that injury or when he will return.

Ireland do have depth here, in the form of Rob Herring and Ronan Kelleher but losing Sheehan would be a massive blow to Farrell and Ireland, having played a key role in the Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam and the successful tour to New Zealand last year.

With a tricky group containing reigning champions South Africa, Scotland, Tonga and Romania, Farrell’s hand may be forced, with just two hookers to cover those matches a risk.

Tom Stewart will therefore be on standby but Farrell will be praying he can include Sheehan, even if he does miss their opener with Romania.

3.       Keith Earls

The big celebration story of the weekend as Earls triumphantly scored to mark his 100th cap for Ireland but has he done enough to persuade Farrell to select him in the squad?

He obviously has plenty of credit in the bank and his popularity within the squad, experience and flexibility would seemingly make him a hugely useful asset indeed for Farrell.

As what would likely be the final back inclusion in the squad, his ability to play across the line is what could well see him selected for his fourth Rugby World Cup, after appearing in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

Earls will be crossing his fingers his acrobatic score in Dublin sealed his place but ultimately it is a decision that lies with Farrell.