As Ireland prepare to end a near 40-year Rugby World Cup curse in France with the Six Nations secured, the warm-ups completed and the squad selected, they have touched down in France.
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With a 13-Test winning streak, the Irish are considered genuine contenders to win the Webb Ellis Cup on 28 October.
While the Irish have never advanced beyond the quarter-finals at the World Cup, this is arguably one of the best and most settled squads they have ever had.
Tournament : 8 September to 28 October 2023
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Andy Farrell’s heavily tattooed loosehead Andrew Porter has become an integral part of his system. In last year’s Test series triumph over the All Blacks, he scored two tries in the 23-12 loss. His power will be a big asset for Ireland in France. Originally a tighthead, the Dubliner has been rock-solid since switching sides in the scrum.
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Known as ‘Killer’, Dave Kilcoyne made his debut against South Africa in 2012. Like Porter, Kilcoyne earned his 50th Test cap in February against France in a thrilling Six Nations win. Returning from a bad neck injury that ruled him out of the New Zealand Test series last year, he has done well since then.
Over the past ten years, Tadhg Furlong has been an integral part of Ireland’s set-piece performance, earning him six British and Irish Lions Test caps. When Ireland clashes with a powerful South Africa in Paris, Furlong’s physical attributes will be valued. He is a world-class prop and is crucial to Ireland’s set-piece performance.
Finlay Bealham, an Australian tighthead, missed out on the 2019 squad under Joe Schmidt, but has since become a regular in Farrell’s front row, starting the first three games of this year’s Grand Slam before being injured in the final two matches. It seems like a natural successor for Furlong.
Tom O’Toole is the youngest of Ireland’s six props. He made his debut two years ago and came off the bench in all five Six Nations matches this year. He has earned the coaches’ trust and will expect to start in the World Cup.
In contrast to O’Toole, Jeremy Loughman has the least Test experience of the Irish props. The Munster stalwart of six years won both of his three caps in the warm-up matches and was included in Farrell’s 33 following the injury to Cian Healy.
As a result of his recovery from a foot injury, Farrell’s first-choice hooker Dan Sheehan will play a critical role in Ireland’s French campaign. Although he made his Test debut in the 2022 Six Nations, the Leinster favourite has proven his mettle in big games against New Zealand, South Africa, and France. In addition to being an efficient ball-carrier, Sheehan also scores tries, as evidenced by his double against England to seal the Grand Slam.
During the last 18 months, Sheehan’s club-mate and primary rival for the number two jersey, Ronan Kelleher, has been suffering from injury problems. Sheehan has nailed down his spot with a series of impressive displays, but Kelleher, who trained with the Lions in 2021, is an accomplished alternative should Farrell shuffle his pack.
As the final hooker, Rob Herring edged out Ulster clubmate Tom Stewart, an experienced and dependable operator. As well as scoring tries off the bench against New Zealand and England, the 33-year-old was an effective replacement for Stewart in the warm-up match against Samoa. Four years ago, he was called into the squad as injury cover for Sean Cronin, but he did not take part.