There are no shortage of talking points from Ireland’s confirmed 31-man Rugby World Cup squad but the inclusion of Luke McGrath ahead of Kieran Marmion is definitely towards the top of the list.
Marmion has long been considered as the front-runner to deputise for Conor Murray and the Connacht scrum-half has put in some big performances for Ireland in the past, most notably his starting role in the famous win over the All Blacks last November.
However, to the surprise of many, Marmion has been excluded with Joe Schmidt favouring Leinster’s McGrath instead.
On that tough decision, Schmidt highlighted how McGrath has been in excellent form for the eastern province this season.
“The two scrum-halves, that was an incredibly tough decision,” Schmidt told Irish Rugby TV.
“If you were going to have a guy who was the quintessential team member, Kieran Marmion is a guy who you would hold up as a guy who has done some fantastic stuff for us. Obviously at scrum-half but then he’s so versatile and such a good man to have in the environment as well.
“That was a very tough decision with the other two scrum-halves. And again, it’s that balance of past performance. Conor Murray has been a world-leading scrum-half and Luke McGrath has been incredibly good this season. The two of them in competition with Kieran Marmion, that was a very tough decision to come to.”
Schmidt also spoke about Addison and it seems that the versatile back’s lack of game time in 2019 has counted against him.
“There will be some players who are incredibly relieved as well as some players who are very disappointed. We could talk about a number of them. I thought Will Addison was really good on Saturday but unfortunately for Will, it’s all just come a little bit too late. He picked up a little bit of a calf niggle after having come back and not having played the back-end of the season.
“He hadn’t had that much time with us but he fits in so well and plays so well. I thought Dave Kearney had a good second-half. Those sort of guys… Jordi Murphy, he got on the ball twice really well and there was quite a big side clean out, otherwise he would have got it.
“Those guys, there’s not much between this group and the guys who aren’t there so at least we feel that if we lose someone, we got someone who can step in and do a really good job. Those guys now have the responsibility and opportunity to go to a Rugby World Cup. I’m sure they’re going to look to grasp it with both hands and as you say, try to kick on to another level now.”