Ulster wing aces Gilroy and Trimble won't take on world: Corrigan
Former Ireland international Reggie Corrigan is predicting World Cup heartache for two Ulster wingers when Joe Schmidt names his squad for the upcoming tournament.
Andrew Trimble has not played any rugby since October after suffering a toe injury in the Pro12 encounter against Glasgow and Corrigan fears that it may have cost the 30-year-old his place on the game's biggest stage.
And with competition for places in the back-three so fierce, Corrigan also foresees disappointment for Craig Gilroy, despite the young wing having had such a notable campaign for Ulster.
Having come in from the cold after falling out of favour with previous coach Declan Kidney, Trimble starred in last year's victorious Six Nations campaign, with Leinster's Dave Kearney on the opposite wing, but neither were fit to take part this time around, with Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo lining up either side of fullback Rob Kearney.
"Andrew has been very unfortunate," said the 47-times capped prop who was accompanying the Webb Ellis trophy on the first day of its tour through Nothern Ireland.
"I met him there during the Six Nations and was talking to him about it then.
"You look at last year's tournament (the 2014 Six Nations), when he didn't even look like he was going to get into the squad and then he was one of the players of the tournament.
"It was an incredible turnaround for him, but I think that maybe the injury is going to cost him a place sadly."
Gilroy, who was voted as Ulster's Player of the Year, won the last of his six caps against Georgia in November last year, but Corrigan feels the 24-year-old's resurgence has come just too late.
"Craig Gilroy is such an exciting young player, but Joe has so much choice in that back-three and Simon Zebo really seems to be in favour," he reflected.
"It's going to be tough for anyone to force their way into that squad, but between now and the end of August anything can happen.
"It's so strong at the moment, and the areas you're looking at are so competitive, it's going to be really tough to break into that squad from the outside now."
One Ulsterman that Corrigan does expect to be heavily relied upon by Schmidt come the autumn is Rory Best and the Dubliner is fulsome in his praise for his fellow front-rower.
"Rory Best at hooker, he's such an important character for Ulster, obviously captaining the side and for Ireland as well," said Corrigan.
"His performances of late have been incredible so he really would be one that Joe is going to look to."
Ireland will enter the tournament on the crest of a wave having won back-to-back Six Nations titles for the first time since 1949 and if they can carry that form into a pool that contains France, Italy, Romania and Canada, then Corrigan believes that anything is possible.
"I genuinely feel that we're semi-final contenders," he enthused.
"The way that Ireland have been playing, and the way that the coaching staff are able to analyse opposition and come up with game-plans, I really do think there's a great chance.
"Without putting too much pressure on the squad, they probably set that standard themselves and would be expecting that.
"Once you get to the semi-finals of any competition, with the quality we've seen, and the way we've seen Ireland play against top quality opposition in the recent past, there's no reason they couldn't make the final."
Having played in both the 1999 and 2003 editions of the tournament, Corrigan stresses, however, that a World Cup provides a unique kind of challenge.
"The thing with a tournament like the World Cup is, it only comes around every four years," he said.
"If the Six Nations doesn't go well, then there's always next year, but a lot of these players are going into the games knowing, if they lose, there may not be another chance at the World Cup.
"It's a different kind of pressure."