If fit, Johnny Sexton, Joey Carbery, and Conor Murray will be in the World Cup squad. The remaining fly-half place and remaining two scrum half places aren’t as clear.
Of course last time Schmidt only brought 2 scrum halves, asking Ian Madigan to cover that position as well as work as fly half. That’s a risky strategy. What if Murray goes down injured and is going to be out for one game, but will possibly return? Suddenly Ireland are left with the choices of either sticking with one scrumhalf for 80 minutes and trying to get somebody else to adapt, or calling in a replacement.
Sexton, Carbery, Byrne, Carty, Murray, Cooney, (Luke) McGrath, Marmion… one of thos will have to be left behind, it wouldn’t be sensible to bring 7 halves. 7 is a weird number anyway. As I said at the beginning Sexton, Carbery, and Murray are as good as on the plane.
An injury to any of those three would be a disaster. It’s hardly a ground-breaking statement to say Irelands game plans run through Sexton and Murray. They are the playmakers, the two ‘Messi’s of the side. Saying anything less than they are World Class is an understatement, and they are key to Irelands victory march. As for Carbery, he has been key for Munster last season, and has been marked for this World Cup for years. Since his first cap in 2016 he was the next in line. And he gives an option of varying the gameplan without changing it too much as to lessen it’s impact. That’s two flyhalf and one scrumhalf, leaving Byrne, Carty, Cooney, McGrath, and Marmion.
Schmidt likes Marmion, and regardless of whether you think other players are technically better, Marmion has the most experience playing for Ireland under the current coach in that position after Murray. He has also been forced to slot in on the wing at times, which may well have to happen at some point over the course of the tournament with injuries. A lot depends on what the bench is in these games, it’ll be a flyhalf and a scrumhalf, but what if it’s a centre on the bench? Versatility adds to the squad. Marmion has that and the personality to be an important part of the team. I’d have him in.
Cooney is a slightly different case, as he can play in either position, and has done so for Munster. We’ve seen Murray take place kicks at times, Cooney would be another option, particular in the games against Russia and Samoa where the plan might be to give less minutes to the first two choices. Carty has scored in big European games for Connacht, and played a big role. He knows how to do it for the underdogs up against it. And again, talk about character, you can see it in his game.
With my Leintser hat on I wouldn’t want Byrne and McGrath in the squad. Not because they are not worthy, but because Leintser are missing Sexton already. McGrath is the best at controlling games, and as much potential Frawley has Byrne is more proven. As well, it is important Byrne gets plenty of time at 10, we don’t know how much longer Sexton will play for Leinster. It’s harsh to say it, but to be cynical, it’s better for the blue province to keep two of their top 3 halves.
Nobody Told Us...
I had written the bulk of this article before the Italy game. Now that Carbery has an injury a decision has to be made. It’s either a case of bring a different fly-half, just use Cooney as a double. I would say it’s far too risky to bring one player covering both positions. It may have not gone too wrong last time but it’s a big risk. IF Carberys out, bring Ross Byrne.
Who do you think Ireland should bring on the plane?
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