Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby World Cup

Will Addison's Ireland chance proves how much Schmidt wants Ulster star at World Cup

Wales v Ireland, World Cup Warm-Up Test, Principality Stadium, Tomorrow, 2.30pm

Ireland’s call: Will Addison at Carton House yesterday
Ireland’s call: Will Addison at Carton House yesterday
Will Addison at Carton House yesterday in training with the Ireland squad
Joe Schmidt
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Even in the aftermath of Twickenham and the unscheduled reappearance of some bruised egos, arguably the most significant name read out by Joe Schmidt yesterday as he unveiled his team to face Wales was the first.

Rugby round up Newsletter

Game previews, plus expert insights and exclusive commentary from the Belfast Telegraph sports team.

The Ireland coach will submit his initial 31-man squad to World Rugby less than 48 hours after the final blast of the referee's whistle in Cardiff tomorrow and yet, at this late stage, his full-back at the Principality Stadium hasn't played a minute of rugby since the final game of the Champions Cup pool stages back in January.

What a chance for Will Addison to book a place on the plane.

That the Ulsterman is being afforded the shot at all is a testament to Schmidt's desire to have had him involved for the reasons why this World Cup could have passed him by are numerous.

Despite making a flying start to life in Ireland after his move from Sale, where he had captained the Manchester-based club after a long association, his eye-catching season was cut short barely after the Christmas trees had been returned to the attic.

By that stage, his natural spark, as well as an ability to play right across the backline, had earned him three caps, one as a last-minute call-up against Argentina after injury struck Robbie Henshaw only as kick-off approached.

But a back injury put paid to any hope of adding to that tally during the Six Nations and, after a string of the usual "week-at-a-time" updates, it would ultimately end his season.

Sign In

When Schmidt named his first training panel, the 26-year-old's name was a notable absentee. Having returned to pre-season with Ulster though, he was quickly summoned to Carton House, that missing those first few sessions wasn't seen as terminal to his cause only further strengthening the idea that this was a player Schmidt would love to be involved if only his body proved to be sufficiently robust.

Irish-qualified thanks to an Enniskillen-born mother - she studied at Trinity, meeting Addison's father, a Cumbria farmer, in the process - and in this age of casting an increasingly wide net, was naturally going to pique Schmidt's interest.

A clause in his Sale contract allowed for a break in the event of Irish offers and, with his former team-mate and coach Dwayne Peel working at Kingspan Stadium, the connection was made.

By the time he first pitched up in Belfast, there'd been numerous phone-calls with the Irish coach and a raft of training sessions banked as a non-playing member of the squad on the 2018 tour to Australia.

For all the injury misfortune since, nothing has weakened the notion formed then that there's been a continued desire to fast-track Addison into plans that have otherwise long-felt four-years in the making.

The battle against Wales will be making an impact without allowing the idea that this is his one shot see him revert to hero-mode.

Yesterday Schmidt was evidently still irked by what he deemed players more concerned with their place on the plane than the match in Twickenham. On Addison, though, his words will have offered real encouragement.

"It's his first run out for a long time," he admitted before praising the versatility that can be invaluable in the battle to master the four-yearly challenge of a World Cup squad.

"He didn't play at the back end of the season so for Will it is a really important opportunity - but he has to hit the ground running. He has trained really well this week and we are very hopeful that he can slot in very quickly.

"At the very last minute before we played Argentina last year he stepped in at very late notice. He wasn't even in the matchday 23. He stepped in at 13 and did a very good job for us. That's the sort of flexibility he offers.

"He plays 13, on the wing, he is a very good kicker of the ball, including goal kicking, so he becomes that jack of all trades that we might well need but he is a master of a few as well."

Scrum-half Kieran Marmion, meanwhile, has few concerns about any lack of familiarity between back-line colleagues.

"I've played with Will a few times before," said the Connacht man.

"We obviously had a good week's training and you get that familiarity through training. That just builds throughout the week.

"As soon as it's game time that can help you click as soon as you get on the pitch."

While only Jean Kleyn rivals his relative lack of Test experience, when all is said and done, Addison could yet be Irish Rugby's answer to Jofra Archer, someone whose inclusion has been so long touted yet still arrives feeling sudden.

Few, after a triumphant Cricket World Cup and impactful Ashes debut, still doubt the validity of England leaving a longer-serving soldier out in the cold. There are plenty of obstacles to overcome before such status could come to pass - the presence of Rob Kearney for one - but yesterday's selection keeps the hope alive.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph