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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 26 April, 2018

5 overseas Irish with an outside chance of making the Rugby World Cup

Jonny Sexton is not included as he immediately qualifies under ‘The Jonny Sexton Rule’.

Leicester's Irish winger, Niall Morris.
Leicester's Irish winger, Niall Morris.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

IN TIMES OF national team crisis, Irish coaches such as Warren Gatland, Eddie O’Sullivan and Declan Kidney were implored to look abroad for solutions.

Gatland had the likes of Geordan Murphy and Eoin Reddan to call upon but Trevor Brennan never stood a chance. Kidney was urged to take a trip to Sale and/or Worcester in 2012 but ended up capping Kiwi prop Michael Bent ahead of Tony Buckley and John Andress.

There are more than 50 Irish professional rugby players playing outside these shores but the only name that current national coach Joe Schmidt has dealt with is James Hart. Grenoble’s goal-kicking scrum-half was contacted by team manager Mick Kearney at the turn of the year and was told he was being monitored.

However, when the Ireland and Emerging Ireland teams were named only two overseas players were selected — Jonny Sexton and Robin Copeland, who is now with Munster. Eoin Griffin and Niall Annett made the shadow squad but both are off to England next season. It remains to be seen whether they feature again during their time abroad. was contacted by a number of foreign-based players who were unhappy that they had not been included in either squads. According to the six senior professionals contacted by, it appears that, apart from Sexton and Copeland, none received calls or emails informing them their services would not be required.

When contacted, an IRFU spokesperson stated that the Irish management team monitor the progress of all Irish players abroad. The spokesperson added that Schmidt had over 80 senior players, based in Ireland, that he could call upon for the summer tours to Argentina and Romania.

“It seems to be the price you have to pay if you play abroad,” said one player, “but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating… All you can do is play as well as you possibly can for your club and take it as it comes.”

The new season presents opportunities to many of the Irish abroad to play themselves into the headlines and give Schmidt and his coaching team some hard decisions to make. Here are five players that start the new season as outside bets to break into the national team or, in one case, earn a recall.

Eoin Griffin

Eoin Griffin and Cornell du Preez Now with London Irish, Griffin has experience at inside and outside centre. Toured with Emerging Ireland and played nine times for Ireland U20s. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ryan Caldwell

Rugby Union - Amlin Challenge Cup - Pool Four - Bath Rugby v Agen - Recreation Ground The former Ulster lock is hoping for a new lease of life at Exeter following three injury-hit seasons at Bath. Aged 29, Caldwell has two Ireland caps and may look to Devin Toner's late international blooming for inspiration.

James Hart

JHART The former Clontarf scrum-half had a fine season with Grenoble but the club's failure to make the Heineken Cup may hinder his international prospects in 2014/15. Source: @JamesWilliam91

Niall Morris

Rugby Union - Aviva Premiership - Leicester Tigers v Saracens - Welford Road The winger/fullback has been named in extended senior squads in the past, including one of Schmidt's, but an injured thumb ruled him out for three months of last season. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Eamonn Sheridan

Tomas O'Leary and Eamonn Sheridan tackle John Ryan Capped 16 times for Ireland U20s, the former Leinster player (right) had an impressive season in the Exiles' No.13 jersey. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Players such as Tom Court, Conor Gilsenan, Chris Farrell and Shane Monahan are among other Irish exiles hoping for a strong start to 2014/15.

What overseas player do you think has the best chance of winning an Ireland call-up?

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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