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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Five men fighting for Joe Schmidt's World Cup attention over the next few months

It’s a battle for those boarding passes between now and September.

WITH THE CHAMPAGNE still flowing following Ireland’s 6 Nations Championship victory, minds have already drifted towards the World Cup.

While Joe Schmidt made a number of forced changes due to injury, only two switches from start to finish were tactical. That of in the last game against Scotland with Luke Fitzgerald and Cian Healy coming in.

Fitzgerald spoke earlier last week that not having played in a World Cup was ‘the big disappointment’ in his career. That disappointment looks set put to bed later this year, but there are also a number of players who will be even more determined to make an impression over the next few months.

The following five players will be looking to prove that they are worth a call up but time is against them.

1. Donnacha Ryan

Donnacha Ryan Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The Munster man became first choice in the second row along with captain Paul O’Connell after the 2011 World Cup. By the end of the 6 Nations in 2012, he was the starting lock, and played all three tests against New Zealand in the summer tour. He followed it up by starting all five games of the disastrous 2013 6 Nations before his career was interrupted by injury. He returned from the bench for Munster at the start of march scoring a try against the Ospreys.

2. Chris Henry

Simon Easterby and Chris Henry Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

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The Ulster back row was key in last year’s 6 Nations triumph and was set to play a leading role in the November series before heart problems ruled him out. While there is talk of the dynamic back row making a come back before the end of the year. His presence saw the transition to a Sean O’Brien-less Ireland seamless, but the biggest question would be whether he has enough time to show what he can do. With the likes of Tommy O’Donnell and Jordi Murphy getting the nod the past 6 Nations tournament, the omens aren’t good.

3. Andrew Trimble

Andrew Trimble 2/10/2014 Source: Matt Mackey/Press Eye

The player of the year last year, should have the least out of all five to prove. He was in breathtaking form last year with tries against Scotland, Italy and France crucial in Ireland’s victory. With Tommy Bowe having slotted into the right wing position in his absence, and Schmidt looking likely to choose a left-footed Fitzgerald on the left, it might be a shoot-out between the two Ulster men for the right wing position. He showed Schmidt last year what he could do and is likely to make the plane.

4. Paddy Jackson

Paddy Jackson Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Ulster out-half has recently returned from injury and must fancy his chances of getting back into the Irish set up. With Ian Keatley not having the best of season’s the question might have been would have a fit Paddy Jackson played in Italy. His Heineken Cup final against Leinster might work against him, with Schmidt’s Leinster taking advantage of an off day for the Methodist College man. Will Schmidt opt for three scrum-halves or out-halves for the competition? If it is the latter, it might see Jackson in with an outside chance of getting back in. Should Ulster make the final of the Pro12, it would give Schmidt another opportunity to see his man.

5. Rhys Ruddock

Rhys Ruddock Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After a brilliant November series, Ruddock was unfortunate that a broken arm for Leinster prevented him from making a real go at the backrow slot. Going into the 6 Nations, he might have been the man to start in the absence of Jamie Heaslip. The displays against South Africa and Australia showed his class and would’ve likely gotten the nod ahead of Jordi Murphy in the back row. But after his Leinster teammates display this year, filling in for Heaslip, he will need an outstanding finish to the season to get into the Ireland squad.

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About the author:

Cillian O Conchuir

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