You heard it here first
Joe Schmidt swept away the debris. The succession plan revealed, Andy Farrell takes over with Schmidt departing in November 2019, for where we do not know. Now, as a reward, the “Ireland Coaching Group” get an early and valued Christmas gift: The Offload’s 2019 World Cup squad.
“They give you 31 players and give you six and five day turnarounds consecutively,” said Schmidt when asked recently how many names are pencilled in. “Player welfare wise, it’s not ideal but therefore you need to be conscious that you need robust players, players who can back up week-to-week.”
The cupboard needs to be stocked in specialist positions so five props, three of whom must be tightheads as Andrew Porter covers loosehead, and three hookers are guaranteed to travel. Unlike 2015, when Ian Madigan was third choice scrumhalf, John Cooney can provide an emergency outhalf option and so three number nines should go. That leaves Chris Farrell, Will Addison and Andrew Conway (inset) scrapping for the 31st spot. Conway, currently, on form. The bolter four years ago was Tadhg Furlong. The need for an extra number eight – with Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne covering blindside – gets Caelan Doris on the plane. Anyway, paying no heed to injury, here follows the unofficial RWC 2019 squad: Fullback/wing: R Kearney, J Larmour, J Stockdale, K Earls, A Conway. Centre: Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw. Outhalf: J Sexton, J Carbery. Scrumhalf: C Murray, L McGrath, J Cooney. Props: C Healy, J McGrath, T Furlong, A Porter, John Ryan. Hooker: R Best, S Cronin, N Scannell. Locks: James Ryan, D Toner, T Beirne, I Henderson. Backrow: CJ Stander, P O’Mahony (capt), J van der Flier, D Leavy, S O’Brien, C Doris.