'A little bit too late': Joe Schmidt explains decision to drop Will Addison but praises Rory Best ahead of World Cup
When push came to shove, it was Will Addison's injury issues that toppled the Ulster centre out of Ireland's 31-man World Cup panel.
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He had been seen as a shoo-in for a seat on the plane to Japan, Chris Farrell said to be the man missing out until the final squad was unveiled, six days early, with Addison's name nowhere to be seen.
Having been called into the training squad on his return from back surgey earlier this year, he was given his first taste of on-field action on Saturday, starting at full-back as Ireland edged Wales at the Principality Stadium.
That, head coach Joe Schmidt had said, was a 'really important opportunity' for Addison to rubber-stamp his spot.
So, with a strong performance, what went wrong?
"I thought Will Addison was really good on Saturday," admitted Schmidt.
"Unfortunately for Will it’s all just come a little bit too late. He picked up a little bit of a calf niggle, after having come back and not playing the back end of the season."
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There are only three Ulster players, then, in the squad; captain Rory Best joined by Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale.
Best, in particular, had been under the microscope after the hammering at the hands of England, but came off the bench in Wales and received more praise from his boss as his name was expectedly accompanied on the announcement by the 'CAPTAIN' tag.
“I think there’s always doubt in your mind when you first start a Rugby World Cup build-up because people have to get through that period of hard work and it’s testing for everyone including Rory,” Schmidt said.
“I felt he worked really hard. It wasn’t a great game against England and, again, without taking away all of the responsibility from the players, I knew we were heavy-legged, I knew we weren’t going to be at the top of our game.
“If you’re trying to get the balance of ‘when do we most need to play well?’, it’s still in three weeks’ time. Nobody wins a Rugby World Cup at a pre-World Cup Test match. We knew it was part of a process but even then it was incredibly disappointing.
“But in that game, I still felt that Rory, despite the lineout not functioning very well, around the park he did a good job. In the last 20 minutes at the weekend I felt he led the scrum, he made a dozen tackles in 20 minutes. That’s not a guy who’s miles away from being at his best.”
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