herald

Saturday 19 October 2019

Places up for grabs

Schmidt includes Kleyn and Haley for first time

Josh van der Flier of Leinster is tackled by Munster’s Jean Kleyn
(left)
Josh van der Flier of Leinster is tackled by Munster’s Jean Kleyn (left)

Jean Kleyn and Mike Haley are the only uncapped men named in Joe Schmidt's 44-strong Ireland training squad to prepare for the Rugby World Cup.

This will be eventually trimmed down to an official group of 31 as players go toe-to-toe from mid-June to impress the coaches.

The erosion of confidence that has happened through the season has been further eaten into by the loss of Dan Leavy and Sean O'Brien to injury.

This has opened up an opportunity for Tommy O'Donnell to compete with Josh van der Flier and Josh Murphy for an openside slot.

"It's always a challenging process because the coaching group are very conscious of how hard the players work," said Schmidt.

"It's ideal that they get a good opportunity to relax for a few weeks before getting stuck into pre-season training and busy 'Summer Series' in the lead-up to the World Cup."

Meanwhile , Rob Kearney finally signed a deal to play on after the World Cup to the end of next season in what is essentially a 7-month contract.

"There are goals I still want to achieve with both Leinster and Ireland next season," said Kearney.

The decorated full-back could come under pressure from Haley, one of three men who could make a major impact for Schmidt in the next five months.

1. JEAN KLEYN

The huge Munster second row brings a point of difference as the most natural tight-head lock in Irish rugby.

Given the road ahead, this season has taught everyone that nothing can be taken for granted.

However, the grand plan has to revolve around the World Cup quarter-final date that could well mean a meeting with South Africa.

2. JACK CONAN

The Leinster number eight has taken the steps forward to place CJ Stander in serious jeopardy in the months ahead.

The first time Conan looked the part at international level was on that two-test trip to Japan in 2017.

He has put all the elements of the game together in the aftermath of the Six Nations to stand up to and out against Toulouse and Saracens in Europe and Glasgow in the PRO14 League final.

3. MIKE HALEY

The Munster full-back is as close to Kearney in his style of play as a security blanket at the back.

The sure technical tackler and fair counter-attacker has been a fine addition for Johann van Graan.

The fact is Jordan Larmour has not quite convinced at fifteen in green and Jacob Stockdale has not yet gained the experience to make the move that might come after the World Cup.

IRELAND WORLD CUP TRAINING SQUAD

Forwards (24)

Hooker: R Best, S Cronin, R Herring, N Scannell;

Loose-head props: C Healy, D Kilcoyne, J McGrath;

Tight-head props: F Bealham, T Furlong, A Porter, John Ryan;

Second rows: T Beirne, U Dillane, I Henderson, J Kleyn*, James Ryan, D Toner;

Flankers: J Murphy, T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony, R Ruddock, J van der Flier;

Number eights: J Conan, CJ Stander.

Backs (20)

Scrum-halfs: J Cooney, K Marmion, L McGrath, C Murray;

Out-halfs: Ross Byrne, J Carbery, J Carty, J Sexton;

Centres: B Aki, C Farrell, R Henshaw, G Ringrose, R Scannell;

Wings: A Conway, K Earls, D Kearney, J Larmour, J Stockdale;

Full-backs: M Haley*, R Kearney.

*denoted uncapped player

Unavailable due to injury: D Leavy, S O'Brien.

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