TO PARAPHRASE AND dilute Detective Marcus Burnett in Bad Boys, this just got real.
Today marks Joe Schmidt’s first real squad announcement. His first get-together gave him the chance to bring over 40 players in under his wing and name-check a few more who were out injured at the time.
Today, he was forced into the hard calls with only 34 places given out as he points Ireland to three games without much thought for experimentation.
Here’s our initial verdict on who is mightily unfortunate to miss out and who can pat themselves on the back for making the cut.
Munster’s uncapped number eight will turn 33 in December and will raise most eyebrows in the list of 19 forwards.
Coughlan is undoubtedly a solid performer, but this selection comes days after he was dropped to facilitate Peter O’Mahony against Gloucester. The injuries to Tommy O’Donnell, Donnacha Ryan and Iain Henderson look to have given the Munster stalwart a boost to this Schmidt squad.
Having been leap-frogged into the Test XV after paying his dues on the bench during the Six Nations, Dave Kilcoyne has been left out of the entire squad.
McGrath’s performances have absolutely deserved a promotion to the senior setup however. His scrummaging as well as his ball-carrying presence around the field have shown the loose-head to be an able deputy for Cian Healy at provincial level.
The third uncapped man in the squad, but the one you feel should have earned the honorary head-wear before now.
Bar 10 minutes in the bin on matchday one, the younger Kearney has played every second for Leinster this term. The injury to Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy’s difficulty in carving out a role for himself with Ulster gave the Leinster wing a leg up into the squad.
By no means a surprise selection, but having been initially left out of Declan Kidney’s Six Nations plans (before ending his season with the Lions) Court could have been an easy cull for an ex-Leinster coach looking to present the image that he is building towards 2015.
A major factor in Ulster’s success in recent weeks (all three front rowers are in the squad), Court has well and truly played his way in on merit, at the expense of Munster’s two options at loosehead.
Isaac Boss / Eoin Reddan
Like Court, Leinster’s two experience halves have younger bucks snapping at their heel, but Schmidt has kept faith with the pair that brought him so much success, at the expense of their rivals in Connacht and Ulster.
The absence of the word ‘captain’ in the squad might suggest the new coach ready to make his mark on his squad with his own captain.
Of course, he could just name the skipper on a game by game basis, in which case we’ll have to wait until Australia come to town before knowing for sure who the leader will be.
Kieran Marmion / Paul Marshall
We’re lumping the four scrum-halves behind Conor Murray into just two headings as it is such an intense race to back up the Munster 9.
While Marshall has guided Ulster through the opening stages of the season and provides a different dimension from his rivals, it is Marmion who is marginally more unfortunate to miss out on this squad. The 21-year-old is not only first choice with his province, but has displayed terrific form and maturity in recent weeks for Connacht’s biggest games of the season.
As mentioned above, ‘Killer’ has slipped down the pecking order for his country as James Cronin catches up with him at provincial level. The 24-year-old loosehead will have to be content with licking his wounds and refocusing his efforts with Munster through the coming week.
With only four wingers named, Ulster’s all-time leading try-scorer was facing an uphill struggle to fit into Schmidt’s plans. Some shaky handling in the opening round of the Heineken Cup won’t have helped the cause of a specialist winger when the four men ahead provide options at either fullback or centre.
Midway through the second paragraph of the IRFU’s statement today came the line ‘the sole exile…’
With Jonathan Sexton going nowhere soon this was the news Niall Morris dreaded. The Leicester fullback’s inclusion in Schmidt’s opening squad would have given hope that the IRFU net might include a few extra exceptions under the Kiwi. Instead, Morris is left out of a squad with precious few fullback options on the depth chart.
Actually, we were in two minds about whether to mark ‘The Baby Calf’ unfortunate here.
The young tighthead gave a superb display when he was summoned from the bench against Ospreys in the Heineken Cup, but if opportunities are going to be few and far between around Lansdowne Road, perhaps the best thing for a developing tighthead is to keep plugging away regularly at provincial level rather than holding tackle bags at Carton House.
Who do you think deserved inclusion /exclusion from the squad to face Samoa, Australia and New Zealand?
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