Calf niggle derails Addison's late push for World Cup selection

Joe Schmidt opted for Munster’s Chris Farrell in his squad for Japan.

IT APPEARED WILL Addison had timed his charge to perfection, as the Ulster back returned to feature in Saturday’s defeat of Wales, but ultimately his late push for World Cup selection was derailed by his lack of rugby.

Having not played since January, it was always going to be tough for Addison to force his way back up the pecking order and into Joe Schmidt’s 31-man squad, but he could hardly have done any more to support his case for inclusion.

andy-farrell-and-will-addison-after-the-game Addison with Andy Farrell in Cardiff on Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

While the omission of Devin Toner and Kieran Marmion grabbed the headlines, Schmidt’s decision to select Chris Farrell as a fourth centre ahead of Addison was another that caused debate, chiefly because of the Ulsterman’s performance against Wales. 

Starting at fullback having also previously played in midfield and on the wing, Addison once again demonstrated his strengths in the backfield at the Millennium Stadium, notably an evasive and balanced running game and an ability to stretch opposition defences with speed and agility. 

Although he was forced off for running repairs during the second half, here was a performance of substance from the 27-year-old having been tasked with producing one that convinced Schmidt he was fit, ready and worthy of a seat on the plane.

But, in truth, Addison’s lack of game time was a key factor in Schmidt’s decision-making process as the difficult calls regarding the make-up of his back three saw the Ireland head coach opt for Rob Kearney, Andrew Conway, Jordan Larmour, Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale, with Munster’s Farrell adding to the midfield options.

Explaining his decision, Schmidt explained Addison — who had not played since January after back surgery curtailed his debut season with Ulster — had suffered a calf niggle against Wales, so there were obvious concerns over his fitness going forward to Japan.

“I thought Will Addison was really good on Saturday,” Schmidt said.

“Unfortunately for Will it’s all just come a little too late. He picked up a little bit of a calf niggle after having come back and not having played the back end of last season, and he hadn’t had that much time with us. But he fits in so well and played so well.”

Instead, Farrell earns his seat on the plane while his Munster team-mate Conway is more than deserving of the opportunity having mounted a compelling case for selection through his lively and standout performances.

Not only technically excellent in the air, Conway has been in superb form having worked incredibly hard on his game and the former Blackrock College man is primed to have a big World Cup on the wing for Ireland. The fact he also brings that versatility only strengthened his claim for a ticket. 

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Larmour was by no means a certainty but the 22-year-old has more than shown his worth in the Test arena and also fits into the mould Schmidt was looking for, given he can cover fullback, wing and centre.

Kearney and Earls will be among those — Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton included — hoping to get valuable minutes under their belt against Wales in Dublin this weekend, as the build-up to that World Cup opener against Scotland ramps up a couple of notches.

Murray Kinsella joins Gavan Casey, Ryan Bailey and Sean Farrell with their immediate reaction to Ireland’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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