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Rugby World Cup: Ireland's call - how the players rated at tournament

By Ruiadhri O'Connor

Published 21/10/2015

Down and out: man in green Robbie Henshaw
Down and out: man in green Robbie Henshaw

The sun has set on Ireland's World Cup hopes and as the dust settles on the disappointing exit at the hands of Argentina, plans begin to be put in place for four years time.

Here we look at how each of Joe Schmidt's players fared in England and Wales and where they stand in the pecking order for Japan 2019.

1 ROBBIE HENSHAW: Returned from hamstring problem to play against Italy and took the France game by the scruff of the neck, putting in a phenomenal display. Consistently one of Ireland's most frequent and effective tacklers and carriers, his importance to the team is only growing. Has emerged as a leader. Age in 2019: 26

2 RORY BEST: Showed his importance to the team time and time again, executing his primary role out of touch brilliantly while also being an effective force at the breakdown. Brilliant against France, he couldn't be blamed against Argentina. Deserved better. Age in 2019: 37

3 PETER O'MAHONY: You don't appreciate what you have until it's gone. O'Mahony so often set the tone for Ireland with his aggression and workrate and was badly missed. An Ireland captain in the making, if he can stay fit. Age in 2019: 30

4 JAMIE HEASLIP: Made more tackles than any other Irish player and only Sean O'Brien carried the ball more frequently. Reserved his best performance for Argentina. Age in 2019: 35

5 PAUL O'CONNELL: The captain hauled his team back from the brink against Italy and then led them into a ferocious performance against France. For all of the players lost that day, the Munster legend's absence left a hole that nobody could fill. Age in 2019: 39

6 IAIN HENDERSON: Argentina targeted the big Ulster man and his lack of impact in Ireland's biggest took away some of the sheen of his earlier performances. Like Henshaw, will become a pillar of this team. Age in 2019: 27

7 - JACK McGRATH: Unlucky to miss out on starting the quarter-final, the loosehead prop is currently a better player than Cian Healy who gets Ireland over the gainline but is not at the level he needs to be at. McGrath barely put a foot wrong and was missed against the Pumas. Age in 2019: 30

8 SEAN O'BRIEN: Ireland's top carrier and most effective player despite his suspension, he drops down the rankings because of the punch that cost his side dear. O'Brien's presence could have turned the Argentina game Ireland's way. Age in 2019: 32

9 ROB KEARNEY: Scored three tries and rarely put a foot wrong despite coming into the tournament under an injury cloud and missing the Italy game with a glute strain. Exposed as the last line against Argentina and sometimes too predictable when returning the ball. Age in 2019: 33

Read more:

Rugby World Cup: How Ireland's world fell to pieces  

10 KEITH EARLS: Only he and Heaslip started every game and Earls delivered some breathtaking moments. Looked out on his feet and was partly responsible for the defensive malfunction against Argentina. Age in 2019: 32

11 TOMMY BOWE: Came into the tournament under a cloud and left it on a stretcher, but in between he had a fine competition; particularly showed up when the going got tough against Italy. Age in 2019: 35

12 JARED PAYNE: Drew criticism, but his absence was felt against Italy and Argentina. Scored a try against Canada, but it was in defence where he was missed most. Age in 2019: 34

13 CONOR MURRAY: Scored an important try against France and played well that day, but in the two games when Ireland were in jeopardy Murray played poorly. His kicking against Argentina was below his usual standard. Age in 2019: 30

14 LUKE FITZGERALD: Based on his performance against Argentina, we should have seen more from Fitzgerald who cut the Pumas open and was responsible for dragging Ireland back into the game. Only started the opening game. Age in 2019: 32

15 MIKE ROSS: The scrum was a weapon for Ireland throughout the tournament and even though Ross appeared to change his technique for Marcos Ayerza, he still kept up his end of the bargain. Targeted in open play by the Pumas. Age in 2019: 39

16 DEVIN TONER: Produced his best performance against France, but followed it by a poor display against Argentina when missed tackles cost his side. Age in 2019: 33

17 DONNACHA RYAN: Started the tournament in form and looked to have moved above Toner in the pecking order, but couldn't force his way past the Leinster man for the biggest games. Age in 2019: 35

18 RICHARDT STRAUSS: Forced his way on to the bench for the two biggest games after playing well against Romania. Accurate out of touch, he couldn't make an impact against Argentina. Age in 2019: 33

19 NATHAN WHITE: Provided stability off the bench each and every time he came on, although he was caught in open play against Argentina. Age in 2019: 38

20 JOHNNY SEXTON: Looked so good against Canada, but Sexton (pictured) recaptured that form. Poor against Italy, injury against France deprived him of an opportunity on the biggest stage. Desperately disappointing. Age in 2019: 34

21 CIAN HEALY: Spent the entire summer trying to get fit after neck surgery and never truly made it. Age in 2019: 32

22 CHRIS HENRY: Topped the turnover count alongside O'Brien and Henderson and made an impact off the bench, but when he started against Argentina he was blown away by their back-row. Age in 2019: 35

23 IAN MADIGAN: Played a full part in beating France, but couldn't back it up a week later in the biggest game of his career. Missed a crucial kick, while his overall game didn't hold up under pressure. Age in 2019: 30

24 JORDI MURPHY: Seemed to be the forgotten man until injury and suspension pitched him back on to the front line and he was under-powered for the task at hand. Age in 2019: 28

25 DAVE KEARNEY: Undermined a good tournament with a bad day at the office against Argentina where he missed a costly five tackles. Age in 2019: 30

26 SIMON ZEBO: Enjoyed himself against Canada and Romania before taking over at full-back against Italy. Wasn't great that day, but can count himself unlucky that it was his final involvement. Age in 2019: 29

27 EOIN REDDAN: Looked sharp against Romania, but barely featured in the rest of the tournament. Will feel he could have contributed more. Age in 2019: 38

28 SEAN CRONIN: We still don't know why Cronin, so often Ireland's best replacement, fell out of the squad for the France and Argentina games. Age in 2019: 33

29 PADDY JACKSON: Finished last season like a train, but lost out to Madigan despite looking so sharp against Romania. Age in 2019: 27

30 DARREN CAVE: Played well against Romania but was clearly not considered a serious option. Age in 2019: 32

31 TADHG FURLONG: Here for the experience. Can expect to play in the Six Nations. Age in 2019: 26

THE REPLACEMENTS: Rhys Ruddock had played one match in six months, so it was forgiveable that he was off the pace when he came off the bench. Mike McCarthy and Isaac Boss had whistle-stop trips.

Belfast Telegraph

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