Paul O’Connell will captain the 2015 Ireland World Cup squad in his last appearance in a Test tournament. The side is heavily weighted in experience with nine players over 50 caps: O’Connell alone has 103. By Taylor Heyman
Over half the squad named today – six backs and ten forwards – are currently playing together at provincial level at Leinster. The others are from a spread of Ireland’s top provincial clubs.
Joe Schmidt has taken a gamble on loosehead prop Cian Healy making a return to full match fitness following neck surgery.
Mike Ross and Jack McGrath match experience with the younger Nathan White’s two caps and the selection of one-cap Tadhg Furlong to complete the prop offering. This has left Mike Bent, who plays both tighthead and loosehead, excluded.
The Irish hookers are Rory Best, Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss, who have a total of 138 caps between them.
Iain Henderson, Captain Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner will fill the second-row slots.
A formidable Irish back row will feature Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry, Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony.
The Irish backs selection is characterised by utility players.
Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald can cover anywhere in the back three as well as the centres and Madigan could cover the missing third scrum-half position.
Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan are the two scrum-halves named, the absence of Isaac Boss making room for an extra centre.
Paddy Jackson, Ian Madigan and Johnny Sexton are the chosen fly-halves for the tournament. Sexton is expected to be the starting choice. Darren Cave, Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne will make up the centres.
The winners of the stiff competition for positions in the back three are Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald, Dave Kearney, Rob Kearney and Simon Zebo.
The biggest shock omission was winger Andrew Trimble, who only played 30 minutes of the warm-up game against Wales on 8 August before a recurrence of the toe injury which kept him out of the 2015 Six Nations.
Felix Jones was left out of the 31-man squad after uninspiring performances in the warm-up games. Fergus McFadden and Craig Gilroy also failed to make the cut.
Ireland’s 31-man squad
Props: Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster, 1 cap), Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster, 51 caps), Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster, 19 caps), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster, 51 caps), Nathan White (Connacht, 2 caps)
Hookers: Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster, 84 caps), Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster, 45 caps), Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster, 9 caps)
Second row: Iain Henderson (Ulster, 19 caps), Paul O’Connell (Captain, Young Munster, 103 caps), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster, 30 caps), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster, 26 caps)
Back Row: Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster, 74 caps), Chris Henry (Malone/Ulster, 18 caps), Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster, 12 caps), Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster, 36 caps),
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster, 31 caps)
Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster, 36 caps), Eoin Reddan (Old Crescent/Leinster, 63 caps)
Fly-halves: Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster, 12 caps), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster, 20 caps), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster, 52 caps)
Centres: Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster, 9 caps), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster, 30 caps), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht, 11 caps), Jared Payne (Ulster, 7 caps)
Back three: Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster, 62 caps), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster, 41 caps), Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster, 9 caps), Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster, 63 caps), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster, 17 caps)