Why classy Will Addison's time might yet come despite cruel omission from Ireland's World Cup squad
Somewhat conversely, it seems that in the end it was versatility that did Will Addison out of a place in Ireland's World Cup squad.
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Joe Schmidt's "jack-of-all-trades" won't be going to Japan, faith instead being put in Garry Ringrose's ability to slot in right across the backline.
The Ulster back, who last year arrived in Belfast via Sale thanks to his mother's Fermanagh roots, was one of the more eye-catching cuts when Ireland moved up their squad announcement by some six days and revealed the unlucky nine names that have missed out on their ticket to Japan.
And while the axing of 67-cap stalwart Devin Toner was the headline news, the omission of the considerably less experienced Addison was enough to draw a raised eyebrow on social media from none other than Brian O'Driscoll in the immediate aftermath. His curiosity was widely shared.
No Addison????! I know he’s had limited game time but on Saturdays showing.... 🤔— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) September 2, 2019
Despite seven months out injured, Addison hadn't missed a beat against Wales on Saturday, looking assured under the high-ball and sparking a few of the counter-attacks it seems Ireland are trying to build into their repertoire.
Most left Cardiff thinking he'd reserved his seat on the plane. With Schmidt having first added him to the panel almost as soon as he'd proved a readiness for training with Ulster, and then kept him around this far into the process despite seeing no pitch time, his quality return to action seemed to check the final box required for travel.
Nobody in the Ireland training squad offers a greater ability to play in multiple positions than he does, the 27-year-old having featured at every backline slot bar scrum-half in his professional career, but it seems Schmidt's belief that Ringrose possesses the ability to excel elsewhere made that commodity feel somewhat more expendable.
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There have been a few incredulous looks when the head coach has cited Ringrose's stints on the wing and at out-half in his schooldays at Blackrock College at various points this summer, the latter of which seems to have been stricken from the record, but again the centre was talked up yesterday as an option in jerseys 11, 14 and 15, as well as his prefered 13.
"His versatility allowed us to say we've got three pure centres and Garry, who is a very good centre but has that versatility too," said the coach in an interview given to RTE.
After events in the Principality Stadium, Addison would have went to bed on Saturday fancying himself to be that versatile centre with Ringrose sticking to midfield and Chris Farrell, or perhaps even Jordan Larmour, the man to miss out. Plenty others did too.
Not to be. Instead, it'll be standby duty back at Kingspan. He'll not be alone either with Ulster's Rugby World Cup representation at an all-time low - Rory Best, who has already played his last game for the province, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale are the side's only squad members.
Rob Herring Jordi Murphy and new signing Jack McGrath were the others to get the bad news on Monday with Schmidt going on to say that Addison's injuries have naturally worked against him.
With Johnny Sexton, Joey Carbery, Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls all less than 100% even at this early stage, perhaps Addison was considered one risk too many. More the pity for a player whose class has always seemed at odds with the term "utility back".
An ideal man for the lunacy of a 31-man squad to get through a seven-games-in-six-weeks crash course, given the attrition rate that schedule virtually assures, his time may yet come.
Belfast Telegraph Digital