The upcoming 2015 World Cup will be much talked-about for the next 12 months but what lies ahead after the tournament?
The World Cup is the biggest competition available in most sports, and in rugby the case is no different.
The Run In to The World Cup
What make’s this year different from last year?
Ireland have their current squad, coach and abilities set for England 2015. Now the team just have a season of grueling November Internationals and a Six Nations tournament before the World Cup to test themselves. Head Coach Joe Schmidt will look to build on his succesful debut season as the Irish go into this season without much change in personnel. (Apart from one man’s retirement)
O’Driscoll Out, Payne in?
The retirement of all-time legend Brian O’Driscoll has been analysised, celebrated and talked about in an incredible, deserved manner, but we have accepted that he is gone and we have to replace and carry on with what he helped to leave off
. Never did the fans panic too much. There was an incredible Ulster fullback called Jared Payne that they knew of who had the versatility to play outside centre.
2014/2015 Season Form
Once Payne became eligible in September 2014, he played more at 13 rather than his preferred fullback position for Ulster and performances were noticeably poorer. Meanwhile, Robbie Henshaw was on fire at outside centre for Connacht and looked to be better suited to replace O’Driscoll.
Ahead of the November Series Joe Schmidt would have had a dilemma only for Rob Kearney’s injury which might work out as a blessing in disguise. In the Leinster star’s absence Jared Payne gets to showcase his ability against Australia in the Irish colours while Henshaw can still play in O’Driscoll’s old jersey. Opinions are still divided about who should start when both are available: Payne or Kearney, but either way, it’s not a bad problem to have.
Predicted World Cup Team:
Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross
Dave Foley, Paul O’Connell,
Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien,
Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, Gordon D’Arcy, Robbie Henshaw,
Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe,
Our predicted XV gives the impression that the likes of Payne and upcoming stars like Stuart Olding and Marty Moore will be kept for the next cycle as Mike Ross and Gordon D’Arcy say goodbye.
The Next Cycle
Who might just retire and who are currently their likely replacements?
Rory Best: If Best chose to retire, we would: Lose leadership, experience and a workhorse on the ground. Replacement: Cronin
Mike Ross: If Mike Ross chose to retire we would: Lose a solid ever-present scrummager. Replacement: Moore
Paul O’Connell: If Paul O’Connell chose to retire we would: Lose our captain and one of the greatest leaders and forwards of this generation. Replacement: Dave Foley/ Devin Toner
Jamie Heaslip: If Jamie Heaslip chose to retire we would: Lose a stand in captain and a hardworking, big-carrying number eight. Replacement: CJ Stander
Gordon D’Arcy: If Gordon D’Arcy chose to retire we would: Lose a solid, experienced centre. Replacement: Stuart Olding
This brings us to the next point.
Who are the stars of the next cycle and who will stay with them?
Frontrow: Ireland had a good scrum in the Six Nations and after the World Cup we could have a fairly similar look to our frontow with a bit of luck. We at Munster Haka think Best will stay on to start hooker if he’s the best option available. Arguably the World’s best looshead prop, Cian Healy should definitely keep up his high standards and remain number one but his tight head partner is unknown. Mike Ross should retire after the competition. He can leave knowing that his position is in safe hands with Marty Moore or Tadhg Furlong, both of Leinster.
Second row: The ever improving Dave Foley is currently better than 29 year old Toner. His physicality and work-ethic has helped him to even outshine Paul O’Connell for Munster in Europe so there is no reason why he can’t grow as a test lock. Paul O’Connell looks the most likely retirement of the lot so if he was absent, we’d put the height and aggression of Devin Toner or the dog and experience of Donnacha Ryan in the engine room with Foley.
Backrow: Peter O’Mahony might just be his countries captain come 2019 and is crucial to any future Irish success. Sean O’Brien will continue to work as he has been doing in and out of injury while Heaslip will have to shrug off competition from CJ Stander, Robin Copeland and a number of versatile flankers if he wants to keep on playing for Ireland.
Halfbacks: No question, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will continue together as one of the world’s best pairings up to the next World Cup.
Centres: Gordon D’Arcy is likely to be gone. Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding and in later years, Bundee Aki standout as the first centre options. All of which sound exciting and effective but do they have the edge for test rugby? Outside them will be Robbie Henshaw hopefully off the back of a succesful World Cup campaign and a nice move to Leinster (shots fired)
Wingers: Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe. Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy, Dave Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald; to say we have a lot of wingers is an under statement. Due to the consistent high quality of each option, Schmidt has a license to pick the players on the best form every time.
Fullback: Jared Payne or Rob Kearney? Take your pick.
Now we put it into one strong team:
Post 2015 Lineup:
Healy, Best, Moore, Foley, Toner, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Stander, Murray Sexton, Olding, Henshaw, Zebo, Bowe, Payne.
On paper it looks young and experimental but reading this during the 2016 campaign will seem as strong a lineup as you will see from Ireland. Dave Foley could prove himself as one of the most feared second rows in Europe, Olding and Henshaw could be the next D’Arcy/ BOD; who knows?
As we look onto our crystal ball at Munster Haka towers we see CJ Stander dominating Six Nations games in the green jersey with a big roundy 8 on his back. On his flanks will be captain O’Mahony and the Tullow Tank Sean O’Brien.
Murray/ Sexton has a fantastic look to it. Probably because they’re two fantastic players. However, have they really been as good a partnership that they have the potential to be? Probably not. Murray is still coming on leaps and bounds while Sexton returns to Leinster next season which will by him more time to train with Ireland. Watch out.
Back Three Flair.
If the centres come good Ireland will have one incredible team.
The Ze-bowe partnership backed up by Jared Payne can’t really get much better. Can an Ireland team win with a weapon of counter flair or will the balanced game continue?
Player progress could mean that Ireland will get a world class team together over the next 4 years but injuries might have their own ideas. What is unique is the youth of the likes of Robbie Henshaw and as we say, they can only get better.
Thanks for reading
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One thought on “The Future: Irish Rugby”
I agree that unfortunately injuries will play a part so I would be interested to see who is on your bench. Even within Munster which loose head will win the battle and will that winner still be behind Jack McGrath at Leinster or be challenging Healy?