Home Features Here’s The 31-Man Ireland Squad We Think Will Travel To The World Cup

Here’s The 31-Man Ireland Squad We Think Will Travel To The World Cup

There are just over seven weeks remaining until the beginning of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

After a gruelling preseason, many of the participating nations are beginning their warm-up schedule with a view of getting themselves in an ideal condition before they travel to Japan.

Ireland’s first warm-up game takes place on August 10 against Italy at the Aviva Stadium before they take on England and then back-to-back games against Grand Slam champions Wales.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has a 45-man training squad at his disposal. The next few weeks will prove crucial in terms of making up his mind on the final 31 who will be officially named in the World Cup squad.

Ireland World Cup Squad

Here is the 45-man squad which Schmidt named:

Ireland 45-man 2019 Summer Training Squad

Props (7)

Cian Healy
Dave Kilcoyne
Jack McGrath
Tadhg Furlong
Finlay Bealham
John Ryan
Andrew Porter

Hookers (4)

Rory Best
Sean Cronin
Rob Herring
Niall Scannell

Locks (6)

James Ryan
Devin Toner
Iain Henderson
Jean Kleyn
Ultan Dillane
Tadhg Beirne

Back-Row (7)

Jack Conan
Jordi Murphy
Tommy O’Donnell
Peter O’Mahony
Rhys Ruddock
CJ Stander
Josh van der Flier

Scrum-Halves (4)

Conor Murray
Luke McGrath
John Cooney
Kieran Marmion

Out-Halves (4)

Johnny Sexton
Joey Carbery
Jack Carty
Ross Byrne

Centres (6)

Bundee Aki
Robbie Henshaw
Garry Ringrose
Chris Farrell

Will Addison
Rory Scannell

Wingers (5)

Andrew Conway
Keith Earls
Dave Kearney
Jordan Larmour
Jacob Stockdale

Fullbacks (2)

Rob Kearney
Mike Haley

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Ireland World Cup squad

Now, many of these players are more or less guaranteed to be named in the final 31-man squad which travels to Japan in September but there still remains some intriguing battles for places which will be decided over the next few weeks.

In predicting the squad and for ease of purposes, we’re going to make the assumption that Schmidt will choose the same number of players in each position that he did for the 2015 World Cup squad.

There is a caveat with this, however. The 2015 World Cup was held in England, meaning that certain decisions at the time, like naming only two specialist scrum-halves in his squad (Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan) would be riskier this time around considering the huge differences in distance between Ireland, England (2015) and Japan (2019).

Nevertheless, we’re going to work off this same criteria.

Here are the players which Schmidt picked in his initial 2015 31-man World Cup squad.

Ireland World Cup Squad
Ireland 2015 Rugby World Cup squad

Ireland 31-man 2015 Rugby World Cup Squad

Props (5)

Cian Healy (LH)
Jack McGrath (LH)
Mike Ross (TH)
Tadhg Furlong (TH)
Nathan White (TH)

Hookers (3)

Rory Best
Sean Cronin
Richardt Strauss

Locks (4)

Iain Henderson
Paul O’Connell
Devin Toner
Donnacha Ryan

Back-Row (5)

Jamie Heaslip
Chris Henry
Jordi Murphy
Sean O’Brien
Peter O’Mahony

Scrum-Half (2)

Conor Murray
Eoin Reddan

Out-Halves (3)

Johnny Sexton
Ian Madigan
Paddy Jackson

Centres (4)

Luke Fitzgerald
Robbie Henshaw
Jared Payne
Darren Cave

Wingers (4)

Tommy Bowe
Keith Earls
Dave Kearney
Simon Zebo

Full Backs (1)

Rob Kearney

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Using the same number of players in the various positions above, here is who we believe Schmidt will choose in his 31-man 2019 World Cup squad.

Ireland Predicted 31-man 2019 Rugby World Cup Squad

Props (5) 

Cian Healy (LH)

Dave Kilcoyne (LH)

Tadhg Furlong (TH)

John Ryan (TH)

Andrew Porter (TH)

Talking Point: 

The 2019 Guinness Six Nations gave us a good indication as to where Schmidt’s thinking lies with regards to his props.

Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong are Ireland’s first-choice loosehead and tighthead combination and following that up, it looks certain that Dave Kilcoyne will be back-up loosehead.

Kilcoyne was involved in every matchday squad in the Six Nations and he earned a start against Italy.

For the backup tighthead position, it looks to be a straight shootout between Andrew Porter and John Ryan. Porter was on the bench for Six Nations games against England, Scotland and Wales while Ryan deputised against France and Italy.

Considering Schmidt took three tightheads in 2015, we believe both men will make it on the plane to Japan.

Ireland World Cup Squad

Hookers (3) 

Rory Best

Sean Cronin

Niall Scannell

Talking Points: 

As captain, Rory Best is an absolute guarantee so the real battle lies in the back-up positions.

Sean Cronin’s form for Leinster this year has been superb but he suffered a setback during the Six Nations when his disappointing performance against Italy was punished by Schmidt as he was left out of the final two squads for fixtures against France and Wales.

It was Munster’s Niall Scannell who took up the mantle from the bench in the final two games but with three hookers likely to travel, it seems it will be the trio of Best-Cronin-Scannell who will be on the plane.

Locks (4)

James Ryan

Devin Toner

Iain Henderson

Tadhg Beirne

Talking Points: 

James Ryan and Devin Toner is Ireland’s starting second-row combination and the importance of Toner cannot be overstated considering how his absence during most of the Six Nations was keenly felt after his injury in the opening game against England.

Elsewhere, Iain Henderson is a superb player with his aggression, work rate and carrying ability will result in him being on the plane to Japan.

Ireland World Cup Squad

That leaves Tadhg Beirne, Ultan Dillane and the uncapped Jean Kleyn likely to battle it out for the final spot.

Dillane played in three fixtures throughout the Six Nations including a start against Italy while Beirne came in to start the final game against Wales.

Kleyn’s inclusion is interesting. The South African consistently performs well for Munster with his no-nonsense attitude and aggression likely to appeal to Schmidt.

However, although we think Dillane has enough credit in the bank from the Six Nations to get the nod, it will likely be Beirne’s ability to play in the back-row and his turnover ability which could see him just about push ahead.

Back-Row (5) 

Jack Conan

Peter O’Mahony

CJ Stander

Josh van der Flier

Rhys Ruddock

Talking Points: 

The injuries to Dan Leavy and Sean O’Brien has made what was one of the most competitive positions on the pitch that little easier to predict.

Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander are two certainties and will likely take up the starting positions at both blindside and number eight, respectively.

The aforementioned injuries have opened up the door for the openside position and Josh van der Flier looks to have staked a claim after his earlier than expected return from injury for Leinster in the closing stages of the season.

Ireland World Cup Squad

Jack Conan has long been knocking on the door to start ahead of CJ Stander at number eight and he has an excellent claim with some standout performances for Leinster and Ireland.

For the final spot, it’s hard to look past Rhys Ruddock. The flanker brings his leadership qualities to the group and is often one of the hardest working players on the pitch when he takes to the field.

Schmidt may look to Jordi Murphy as a utility player to offer more cover or Tommy O’Donnell to offer more options at openside but it’s difficult to leave Ruddock out on his recent form. It’s also important to note that Stander can cover openside if required.

Scrum-Halves (2) 

Conor Murray

Kieran Marmion

Talking Points: 

As previously stated, Schmidt only brought two specialist scrum-halves to England in 2015 but with the tournament on the other side of the world in Japan, he may reconsider this tactic this time around.

Going on the assumption that he will only bring two, Conor Murray is guaranteed to go so that leaves a three-way battle between Kieran Marmion, John Cooney and Luke McGrath.

Cooney deputised in Ireland’s first four Six Nations games before being overtaken by Marmion for the final game against Wales, however, it was clear to see Schmidt’s reluctance in bringing on the Ulster scrum-half with him only getting three minutes against England and Scotland and nine minutes against Italy.

Ireland World Cup Squad

Marmion was recovering from ankle surgery which resulted in his absence for the majority of the Six Nations with his last game being the historic victory over the All Blacks in November.

Marmion started that game in the absence of Conor Murray who was still recovering from a neck issue and Schmidt won’t forget how the Connacht scrum-half performed against the best team in the world.

Marmion, when fit, is usually Schmidt’s backup scrum-half and we predict that will still be the case as long as he can stay fit during the summer.

Out-Halves (3)

Johnny Sexton

Joey Carbery

Jack Carty

Talking Points: 

Johnny Sexton will be starting for Ireland at 10 in the World Cup, that much is obvious and Joey Carbery will be his deputy.

That leaves a battle between Jack Carty and Ross Byrne for the third spot.

Byrne was left out of Ireland’s Six Nations squad at the expense of Carty which came as a shock to many but the Connacht out-half has had a superb season in both shades of green this year.

He showed his ability in setting up Jordan Larmour for a consolation try late on against Wales and there was nothing to suggest in the 31 minutes of Six Nations rugby he played throughout the competition that he cannot compete at this level.

Ireland World Cup Squad

Ross Byrne took that disappointment very well and was rewarded with a start against Munster in the PRO14 semi-final at the RDS where he helped guide his side to victory.

This one is almost too close to call but the ball is definitely in Carty’s court. Their respective performances in the summer will be huge in the final decision.

Centres (4) 

Bundee Aki

Robbie Henshaw

Garry Ringrose

Will Addison

Talking Points: 

This area of the pitch is a little easier to predict. Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose have formed the core of Ireland’s midfield for the last two years.

Aki started every game in the 2019 Six Nations although it must be said that Robbie Henshaw started at fullback in the opening game against England before being ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a dead leg.

Garry Ringrose’s involvement shouldn’t need any explanation while Will Addison’s ability to also cover fullback and wing would make him an ideal utility player to bring, especially considering his superb form before his season was ended by injury.

Wingers (4) 

Jacob Stockdale

Keith Earls

Jordan Larmour

Andrew Conway

Talking Points: 

Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls will be Ireland’s starting wingers in the opening World Cup game against Scotland.

Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour both got game time in the Six Nations and their ability to cover fullback should see them named in the final 31-man squad.

Ireland World Cup Squad

Dave Kearney’s inclusion in the training squad is merited considering his excellent form for Leinster this season but it’s unlikely he will get ahead of Conway for the final spot.

Fullback (1) 

Rob Kearney

Talking Points: 

Not much to discuss in this one, there is only enough space for one specialist fullback and that must go to Rob Kearney.

Joe Schmidt will have plenty of cover in this position with the likes of Henshaw, Earls, Conway, Addison and Larmour all capable of filling in here.

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So with all that in mind, here is our 31-man Ireland squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup:

Forwards (17)

Cian Healy

Dave Kilcoyne

Tadhg Furlong

John Ryan

Andrew Porter

Rory Best

Sean Cronin

Niall Scannell

James Ryan

Devin Toner

Iain Henderson

Tadhg Beirne

Jack Conan

Peter O’Mahony

CJ Stander

Josh van der Flier

Rhys Ruddock

Backs (14)

Conor Murray

Kieran Marmion

Johnny Sexton

Joey Carbery

Jack Carty

Bundee Aki

Robbie Henshaw

Garry Ringrose

Will Addison

Jacob Stockdale

Keith Earls

Jordan Larmour

Andrew Conway

Rob Kearney

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Let us know if you agree with our choices in the comments! 

About Sean McMahon

Sean is Head of Pundit Arena Rugby. Contact him on Twitter here: