How Stuart McCloskey's day got even worse while Ulster fans fume over Ireland World Cup squad omission
While six Ulster players have been included in the Ireland training panel ahead of the World Cup, the main talking point for the northern province is the omission of Stuart McCloskey.
The centre was named Ulster's Player of the Year and Supporters' Player of the Year for an outstanding season and was, on the back of that, hoping to force his way into Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's World Cup plans.
However, McCloskey (26), also named in the PRO14's Dream Team, has been left out of the 44-man squad named for the training camps that begin next month.
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- Six Ulster players included as Ireland coach Joe Schmidt names World Cup training squad
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Instead, experienced centres Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are joined by Chris Farrell and Rory Scannell.
While the Ireland coach has left the door open for 'one or two' players to join the panel at a later date, it's notable that Leinster pair Sean O'Brien and Dan Leavy were name-checked as 'unavailable through injury' - a courtesy not given to Ulster's Will Addison.
As if it all wasn't enough to spoil McCloskey's day, he's only gone and added insult to his own injury:
Having a bad day here 😂 if anyone finds a black wallet around the botanic area, could they please get in contact 🙏— stuart mccloskey (@Stuart_Mc12) May 28, 2019
If he could laugh about the unfortunate situation, plenty of Ulster fans and other interested onlookers were taking umbrage with Schmidt's squad on his behalf.
Former Ulster player Mark Best said it was 'mental' that McCloskey could be omitted while the decision was branded an 'absolute disgrace' by supporter Ian Frizzell.
Reporter Paul Williams said he was 'miffed' and pointed out that Ulster's star man would be 'perfect' for the World Cup panel while the South Wales URSC asked "What does @Stuart_Mc12 have to do?"
"Stuart McCloskey good enough for the PRO 14 team of the year not good enough for a 44 man Ireland training squad," questioned Chris McCann and Dylan Carleton pointed out it was 'odd' before 'madness' was added by Adam James to the list of words being used to describe the situation.
We're guessing most of you are like: "Here, Joe Schmidt.... pic.twitter.com/TAbNdZrbvT— Ulster Rugby Round-Up (@URRoundUp) May 28, 2019
Plenty more fans have been less surprised by the decision, although that's not to say they necessarily agree with it.
"(Joe Schmidt) doesn’t fancy him as a player," claimed 'Irv the Swerve' on Twitter. "He’s behind (Robbie Henshaw) and (Bundee Aki) at 12. (Joe Schmidt) doesn’t see him as versatile for covering 13.
"(McCloskey) needs a change of ire coach to get another crack. He deserves it. He’s been class for two seasons. Fully anticipate a great season ahead with a developing Ulster attack."
Lack of time in a green jersey would be my guess. Recent form would justify inclusion for me, but Joe S likes to stick with those who have possession of the jersey rather than make lots of changes.— GMcC (@gram_mac_) May 28, 2019
Colin McBride, meanwhile, was looking for the positives from a selfishly Ulster point of view: "Has always been clear Schmidt doesn't rate him. I'm not going to complain though as I'd rather him pre-seasoning with Ulster than kicking his heels in Ireland camp with a slim chance of getting in the 31 man squad. I think similarly with Cooney."
There has been, it must be said, the odd dissenting voice from amongst the Ulster support. Those include Simon Martin, who said: "Is he really better than Henshaw or Aki? He is very effective for Ulster however on limited Ireland chances hasn’t really shown it."
Looking away from McCloskey's exploits on the pitch, our man Jonathan Bradley had an alternative reason why McCloskey should, in fact, have got the call-up:
It's like a perfectly maintained beard counts for nothing in modern rugby.— Jonathan Bradley (@JBradleyBT) May 28, 2019
Whatever the reason, it seems like McCloskey has been a loser in the game of World Cup squad selection.
And while Ulster fans will feel aggrieved on their player's behalf, Joe Schmidt could rightly suggest that his success in the role to date merits the benefit of the doubt on these kinds of decisions.
Belfast Telegraph Digital