Tommy O’Donnell’s injury should serve as a warning as to how an innocuous tackle can bring an end to a player’s World Cup ambitions.
The unfortunate Tommy O’Donnell has joined a list of Irish players to have their World Cup hopes shattered by serious injury. Included on this list are the likes of Geordan Murphy and David Wallace, who missed the 2003 and 2011 tournaments, while it remains uncertain as to whether or not Andrew Trimble will join this unlucky group.
With this win mind we have selected five players Ireland cannot do without at the World Cup.
Although Ireland have never had such depth at outhalf, Johnny Sexton remains Ireland’s stand out number ten. While both Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan are capable of filling in for the Leinster player, Ireland’s chances at the tournament would be greatly diminished if he were to get injured.
The leadership Sexton provides, along with his relationship with Conor Murray, makes him pivotal to Joe Schmidt’s game plan. Not only does his kicking game allow Ireland attain field position, but his lines of running and distribution ensure that Ireland are capable of threatening the meanest of defences.
While there have been disputes as to whether or not Conor Murray is the best scrum half in world rugby, many agree on the fact that, along with Sexton, he forms part of the best half back partnership in the game.
Murray is an abrasive scrum half who is central to Ireland’s game plan. The quality of his box kicks allow Ireland’s wingers the time necessary to compete for the ball and have enabled the Irish to become the greatest exponent of this aspect of the game.
Murray’s ability to control the game from the base gives Ireland another tactical outlet, while his strength and speed also ensure that he can threaten around the fringes.
Despite the fact that Paul O’Connell is entering the twilight of his career, he is arguably playing some of his best rugby. Free of the injuries that blighted his early 30s, O’Connell has once more become a ball-carrying option and can threaten to turnover possession. In this respect O’Connell has become better with age, and was last night awarded with the Rugby Writers Player of the Year Award.
His line out ability is legendary, while the leadership he provides inspires those around him. The World Cup provides O’Connell with the incentive of winning the only medal missing from his haul, although little motivation will be necessary in this regard.
Although Henshaw has amassed just ten caps for Ireland, he is central to Schmidt’s game plan. Strong in defence and direct in attack, Henshaw has taken over the mantle left by Brian O’Driscoll. While many see him as abrasive centre, Henshaw possesses soft hands and quick feet, allowing him to challenge event he best defensive structures.
Despite Henshaw being touted as O’Driscoll’s successor for a number of years, few would have predicted how seamlessly he has made the centre position his own. Winning the Six Nations and being nominated for the Player of the Tournament Award in his breakthrough year, underlines his importance to Ireland and will make him a player to look out for at the World Cup.
Jamie Healsip is one of Ireland’s most consistent performers. Technically brilliant, Heaslip has evolved from being a ball carrying number eight early in his career, to possessing an all round game.
Often seen clearing out rucks, Heaslip allows Ireland generate quick ball for the other other members of the backrow to take advantage of. The Leinster player has an incredible work rate and is a great reader of the game, enabling him to be in the right place at the right time.
His tackle on Stuart Hogg, as the Scottish full back went over the line in the last minute of Ireland’s victory over Scotland in the Six Nations, displayed both those aspects of his game and ultimately won Ireland the the Championship.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena.