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OPINION: RWC Squad inclusions & exclusions hint at intended style of play

On Sunday September 22 Ireland open their World Cup campaign against Scotland in Yokohama.

Joe Schmidt is not one to look past the upcoming game but should Ireland defeat their Six Nations opponents they will be in pole position to top Pool A with Japan thier only other real test in the group.

Recent World Cups have shown that lesser teams should not be overlooked but Ireland under Schmidt will be confident of finishing top of the Pool where they will move onto play the runners-up of Pool B.

Pool B contains New Zealand and South Africa with the Southern Hemisphere giants almost certain to finish top and second respectively.

Although South Africa have improved enormously under Rassie Erasmus, New Zealand should still have too much for the Springboks to land top spot.

As a result, it is most likely that Ireland will face South Africa in the quarter-finals on October 22.

Guinness Series, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 11/11/2017 Ireland vs South Africa Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale makes a break past Francois Louw of South Africa Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

This potential match up may explain some of Joe Schmidt’s most controversial calls in his Rugby World Cup squad.

Devin Toner is Ireland’s most capped player under Joe Schmidt, yet the Leinster man has been left out of the squad.

Jean Kleyn, who qualified for Ireland this summer is included with just a solitary cap to his name.

Kleyn’s inclusion in the place of Toner has drawn much attention as the 6’11 lock was often seen as Ireland’s go to option in terms of lineout calling when needed.

Indeed, Kleyn isn’t the lineout caller for Munster with that responsibility falling to Tadgh Beirne.

However, neither Munster man is expected to start and so the duty will most likely fall to either James Ryan or Iain Henderson.

Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Co. Kildare 8/8/2019 Jean Kleyn Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

As such the decision to include Kleyn and exclude Toner may have less to do with the lineout and more to do with Ireland’s intended style of play.

While Toner is a giant of a man, standing at nearly seven-foot-tall, Kleyn is the much more dynamic and physical player.

Kleyn is a bulkier option in the second row like those of his native South Africa.

Therfore Schmidt may be preparing for a physical onslaught in the quarter-final, and the presence of Kleyn will go a long way in resisting this.

Rugby Championship, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand 15/9/2018 New Zealand All Blacks vs South Africa South Africa players celebrate winning the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Photosport/Andrew Cornaga

The selection of Rhys Ruddock also hints towards this with the Leinster flanker a more willing ball carrier than Jordi Murphy who was also left out of the 31-man-squad.

Murphy and Toner are symbols of workrate in the Irish squad, getting through a mountain of work with their tackling top-notch.

However, with the possibility of the Springboks looming, it appears that Schmidt is opting to match up physically with the Boks.

Will Addison’s exclusion could be another indicator into Schmidt’s thinking. Prior to his injury the Ulster back looked like potentially usurping Rob Kearney in the team before his season ended prematurely.

On Saturday he looked sharp against Wales at full-back, yet he wasn’t named in the final squad 48 hours later.

Addison is a class act, but he is a long way off full fitness and as a result he is not ready for the South African or All Black brutality that is heading for Ireland.

However, October 22 is a long way away yet and a defeat for Ireland in the group or a South African victory over the All Blacks would alter this dramatically.

Should it work out as expected, Schmidt will be ready for Erasmus’ side.

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