The Magic Number   1 comment

Joe Schmidt

Hard to believe it but International Rugby starts next weekend. The world and her husband will be trying hard to predict the mind of the inscrutable Mr Josef Schmidt.

So what the hell. I thought I’d have a go too.

The only caveat is that we will have to assume that all players will remain fit. (Even Cian Healy)
Let’s see how hard it is to count up to 31, for that is the magic number of a world cup squad,
We can probably start with the team that won the 6 nations. How many of them are indispensable?

Quite a few I would have thought.

Rob Kearney
Tommy Bowe
Jared Payne
Robbie Henshaw
Conor Murray
Rory Best
Mike Ross
Devin Toner
Paul O’Connell
Peter O’Mahony

All started every single game in the same position. Jonny Sexton would have had he been fit. Sean O’Brien also. Only for a vicious knee in the back Jamie Heaslip would have been guaranteed a start too.

That’s 13 players.

Sean Cronin
Marty Moore
Iain Henderson

All took the same spot on the bench for all 5 games. (So did Ian Madigan and Felix Jones, but more of that later)

We are up to 16.

Jack McGrath and Cian Healy shared the 1 and 17 jerseys so both of them will travel.

That’s 18.

Simon Zebo and Luke Fitzgerald both started at 11. Assuming they both will travel we are at 20.

So. What other assumptions can we make before things get complicated?

The back 5 of the pack seems like a good place to start.

In addition to O’Connell, Toner and Henderson we need one of Tuohy and Donncha Ryan in the 2nd row.

My money is on Ryan if he stays fit. He is on a central contract and would seem to be next in line. If both are in similar shape I would give Ryan the edge. If Ryan is not 100% then perhaps Tuohy might get through. So as we are assuming all fit Ryan gets the nod


In the back row, with Ruddock injured you would have to assume that Jordi Murphy and Chris Henry will bring us up to 23.

Tommy O’Donnell could feel hard done by, mainly because he is less versatile across the back row than the other 2, but a good performance in the warm ups or a disaster from one of the others and things could change.

Another easy choice is Richardt Strauss to get in ahead of fellow South African Rob Herring for the 3rd hooking spot.

24……. Getting tight now.

On to the halfbacks.

We need one or two more out halves and Paddy Jackson seems in flying form for Ulster. Most of the smart money is on Ian Madigan getting in also, because of his golden boot and his versatility.

There is a school of thought that says Gordon D’Arcy will get in to cover centre at the expense of Madigan, but that is a bit left field and there is also a chance that both could travel.

So let’s go with 3 out halves for now.

Aulfellahs Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss to stay in front of Marmion for the extra scrum half berths.
That’s 28!

Only 3 places left! We are down to the hardest to predict places with the most candidates in each position.

The outside backs and the props.

The candidates in the current training squad at prop are:

Dennis Buckley
Michael Bent
Tadhg Furlong
Nathan White
David Kilcoyne.

And the current outside back options are.

Gordon D’Arcy
Felix Jones
Andrew Trimble
Keith Earls
Noel Reid
Darren Cave
Dave Kearney
Fergus McFadden
Craig Gilroy.

That’s a lot of players for 3 places.

Firstly. What configuration will we get?

Will Michael Bent’s ability to play both sides of the scrum see him as the 5th and last prop?

Or will Joe take 6 props? Then it is between the experience of Nathan White and the Explosive power of youngster Tadhg Furlong at Tight head.

The aforementioned Michael Bent would have to compete with Denis Buckley and David Kilcoyne for the loose head berth.

If 6 props travel, then things get very complicated in the outside backs, with the top 4 contenders scrapping for just 1 place.

Would you fancy telling 3 of Keith Earls, Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Trimble and Felix Jones that they had to miss out?

Personally I think I would go with just 5 props. Your mileage may vary.

Even then how do you decide between the talent and versatility of Keith Earls, the experience of Gordon D’Arcy, the player of the 2014 6 nations Andrew Trimble and the man who made every squad in the 2015 6 nations, Felix Jones?

My personal preferences are as follows.

Over to you Joe.

Props (5)
Jack McGrath
Cian Healy
Mike Ross
Marty Moore
Michael Bent

Hookers (3)
Rory Best
Sean Cronin
Richardt Strauss

2nd Rows (4)
Devin Toner
Paul O’Connell
Iain Henderson
Donncha Ryan

Back Rows (5)
Sean O’Brien
Jamie Heaslip
Peter O’Mahony
Jordi Murphy
Chris Henry

Halfbacks (6)
Conor Murray
Eoin Reddan
Isaac Boss
Jonny Sexton
Paddy Jackson
Ian Madigan

Centres (3)
Jared Payne
Robbie Henshaw
Gordon D’Arcy

Back 3 (5)
Rob Kearney
Tommy Bowe
Simon Zebo
Luke Fitzgerald
Andrew Trimble

Extremely hard done by
Keith Earls
Felix Jones
Dave Kilcoyne
Tommy O’Donnell
Nathan White
Tadhg Furlong


Posted August 1, 2015 by johnnyg321 in Ireland

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  1. Pingback: Two games in two weeks and what have we learned? | Blues Talk TV

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