Will Addison suffers shock axe as Ireland's World Cup squad announced six days early
Will Addison has NOT been included in Ireland 31-man panel for the upcoming World Cup
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The 27-year-old had been thought to have done enough to secure a place on the plane to Japan, handed his fourth cap against Wales on Saturday and impressing at full-back in what was his first action since January.
However, Munster centre and Fivemiletown man Chris Farrell has instead been chosen by coach Joe Schmidt. Farrell was named at inside centre in the opening World Cup warm-up win over Italy before playing 80 minutes at outside centre in Saturday's 22-17 victory at the Principality Stadium.
Addison's versatility, it had been surmised, would lead to his inclusion in the panel. Able to play centre, across the back line or even provide back-up at out-half, Schmidt had said at last week's squad announcement that Addison provides something Ireland 'may well need' in Japan.
Even after the game, the coach's glowing reference had seemed to indicate there would be good news for the former Sale Sharks captain.
“He has such a balanced running style, he gets a good look at the pitch running from fullback. He’s an accomplished kicker and accomplished at kicking goals as well, so he’s a good back-up to have from that perspective," said Schmidt over the weekend.
“His versatility is a huge strength for him, the fact that he can genuinely play on the wing, he’s got high speed. Obviously, he stepped in very late at 13 for us against Argentina, so he can probably cover the full spectrum of the back three and 13, which is an asset when you’re trying to narrow a squad down."
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In fact, it seems the versatility of Garry Ringrose has helped to seal Addison's fate, with Schmidt confirming it is the Leinsterman who will provide cover across the back line.
Addison's omission means there are only three Ulster players in the panel; Rory Best, Jacob Stockdale and Iain Henderson.
After John Cooney was released from Ireland training last month, Jack McGrath and Rob Herring have also missed out on selection, as has Jordi Murphy, with Rhys Ruddock getting the nod instead.
Ruddock captained Ireland in their opening warm-up game but hasn't featured since. The versatile Murphy seemed set to go having come off the bench last weekend, but his former Leinster colleague joins CJ Stander, Jack Conan, Peter O'Mahony and Josh van der Flier on the plane.
The next big omission is 67-cap second-row Toner, who has long been a fixture in the Irish set-up and was a key man in the 2014, 2015 and 2018 Six Nations wins. An ill-timed run of injuries last season and the emergence of South African lock Jean Kleyn, who qualified on residency last month, has edged him out.
Devin Toner's minutes for Ireland since the last World Cup...2,181! Imagine making that phone call.— Jonathan Bradley (@JBradleyBT) September 2, 2019
As he anticipates a fast-paced World Cup on quick pitches in Japan, Schmidt is trying to pick a dynamic squad and Toner is one of those who has missed out despite his set-piece excellence.
That means Kleyn joins first-choice pairing Iain Henderson and James Ryan, with Tadhg Beirne covering second-row and back-row.
"I've coached Dev for ten years. And he's not just a lineout champion for us, he's such a good player and an absolutely quality person," Schmidt told RTÉ. "That was an incredibly tough conversation yesterday."
In another surprise, Luke McGrath has beaten Kieran Marmion to the second scrum-half place.
Ulster's new signing, Jack McGrath is another high profile, but more expected omission as Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne get the nod.
Sean Cronin and Niall Scannell join Rory Best as hookers, while Tadhg Furlong, John Ryan and Andrew Porter will travel.
With Joey Carbery and Keith Earls declared fit to travel and Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour in, Ross Byrne and Dave Kearney miss out behind the scrum.
Conway could even be in the process of jumping ahead of Jordan Larmour is the race for a starting spot. The Munster man was man-of-the-match in the win over Italy that started the warm-ups and, after appearing off the bench in Twickenham, was impressive from the wing against Wales, creating Jacob Stockdale’s first try with a scything break.
Carbery will join Johnny Sexton and Jack Carty at out-half, while Leinster's McGrath given the nod ahead of Marmion.
That call was always tight, but the Connacht man will be bitterly disappointed having started wins over England and New Zealand during this World Cup cycle.
While Schmidt submitted his squad to World Rugby today, he can still make changes before the squad depart for Japan in cases of injury.
"It was a difficult thing right from the start to have the 45 that we had," said the coach. "We went down to 40 players and to go from 40 down to 31 was really difficult, but we had a process whereby we looked back through every training, looked through the games.
"There were some guys who obviously had more experience and probably had more credit in the bank and were more established and there were other guys who were trying to force their way into group and trying to get a balance of current form versus previous performance, it’s always a very, very difficult conundrum to try to solve.
"It was one of those typical selection meetings where maybe 20-25 of the players are listed straight away.
"It’s those ones where you're trying to get balance where it’s very difficult to choose between two players and two players offer slightly different things and you’re trying then to narrow down and trying to get the best balance across the squad of the entire 31.
"That’s part of what you need to do because you’ve got to make sure you have cover that’s immediate even though you can replace players there is obviously a big time delay in that.”
Confirmed Ireland World Cup squad
Backs: R Kearney, C Farrell, J Larmour, K Earls, J Stockdale, A Conway, R Henshaw, B Aki, G Ringrose, J Sexton, J Carbery, J Carty, C Murray, L McGrath.
Forwards: C Healy, D Kilcoyne, R Best (capt), N Scannell, S Cronin, T Furlong, A Porter, John Ryan, James Ryan, I Henderson, J Kleyn, T Beirne, CJ Stander, P O'Mahony, J van der Flier, J Conan, R Ruddock.