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November is a big, big month for these 5 Irish rugby players

A raft of injury worries mean there are places up for grabs. These guys have a lot to gain.
Nov 4th 2014, 5:05 PM 10,212 36

IT’S THE START of another rugby season and that means it’s a clean slate for rugby players who really want to stake a claim for a place in Ireland’s starting or back-up 15 at next year’s World Cup.

A spate of injuries mean there is even more transition than usual for Joe Schmidt to ride through and even more places up for grabs for players previously thought to be on  or outside the fringes.

Here’s five players in Schmidt’s squad that we think have a lot to gain.

Robbie Henshaw

It’s the obvious big call for Joe Schmidt, so let’s get it out of the way early. The number 13 jersey has an iconic status in Irish rugby and being nominated to fill it will bring a massive amount of pressure and public focus.

So far this season, Henshaw has been out-performing his rival Jared Payne for the position. But international standards are nowhere near the weekly rumble of the Pro12 and to listen to Schmidt weigh up his options you get the sense that the defence and more refined kicking game of his fellow Kiwi is really complicating the issue

Robbie Henshaw Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Due to the pressure of the position, the second man in may actually be at a slight advantage to the first choice. If Schmidt does throw Henshaw in at the deep end he will have to swim and swim fast to hold onto the shirt for the Wallaby Test.

 Stephen Archer

We never did manage to clone John Hayes and despite trawling through tonnes of sci-fi we’re still not able to make another Mike Ross.

The Corkman will be 35 when he sits down to Christmas dinner and comes in to this series of fixtures on the back of a not-so-rigorous “static” training regime. He has reportedly been running over the weekend and Schmidt’s medical team will do their best to patch him up to face the Springboks.

Stephen Archer after the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Whatever happens, Ross can’t possibly be a viable option for 80 minutes of rugby, so there is a huge opportunity for Stephen Archer to impress and bully Marty Moore out of the understudy slot.

Ian Madigan

Speaking of understudies, it’s easy to imagine Leinster’s 10/12/15 option one step down in at least two positions on Schmidt’s depth chart.

With Johnny Sexton coming home and Jimmy Gopperth proving a difficult rival to shift from number 10, Madigan may be asked to focus his full attention on deputising in the centre. Gordon D’Arcy will be first choice in the role for the next 12 months, but it’s tough to imagine the Wexford man playing beyond that point.

Leinster’s place-kicking golden boy might well prefer to play at out-half, but club and country would be better served if he can start to specialise elsewhere.

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Craig Gilroy

It’s two years since the Ulster wing burst on the international scene in a blaze of line-breaks and tries. Since then, the form of Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe combined with a slight dip in his own progress has meant limited chances at provincial level.

Craig Gilroy breaks free to opening try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With Trimble, Dave Kearney, Keith Earls and Fergus McFadden all on the injured list, Schmidt looks to have a straight choice between the Down man and Simon Zebo on the left wing. The Kiwi has had obvious issues with certain aspects of the Munster wing’s game, so in this series we’re likely to see both options given a shot at the big time. As a third-choice winger at his province, Gilroy has more to gain.

Ian Keatley


Munster’s number 10 played his way to a rare squad call-up and nudged Paddy Jackson down the pecking order in the process. At 27, he’s no longer one for the future, but he should be viewing the World Cup as a very real possibility.

Ian Keatley 31/10/2014 Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

We imagine Madigan will continue to be Schmidt’s preferred bench option, but if Keatley can win a starting berth against Georgia and then play as well as he did on his last visit to the Aviva then there’s no telling what stage he might pop up at during England 2015.

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Sean Farrell


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