Devin Toner is left out of the squad, replaced by the better scrummaging Jean Kleyn. The Leinster line out giant has been a great servant to Ireland and will have to watch onwards from home.
World Cup squad announcements are often more interesting for the players not selected, rather than for those who are going and this time is no exception. Top of the list is the tallest man in the squad.
Let’s take a look at those who are left behind, thinking what might have been, looking only at those involved in Ireland’s first three warm-up games.
Shipping an injury against England in the first game of the Six Nations ruled him out for the rest of the tournament. This must have been the genesis of his departure from the squad. Henderson and Ryan, while not as slick together as with Toner, fared well for the remainder of the tournament. Ryan in particular looks like a natural line out caller. Joe realised that we can live without Toner for the first time in years.
Injury saw the scrum half miss a lot of action this year and Luke McGrath just about inched ahead. With Carty going, I was a little surprised that his Connacht club mate is not also going, but I think the player in the best form is going.
Questions may be raised about the risk of taking only a single scrum half specialist on tour, especially with Conor Murray being prone to injury in the last few years. Only time will tell if this gamble to drop a form player pays off.
He left Leinster to play in Ulster with the explicit reason being to make this World Cup squad, so it will have been bitterly disappointing news for the back rower to hear. It is arguably the most contested position in the squad at the moment. I feel Joe has chosen taller men, Conan, Ruddock, Henderson and O’Mahony, so that he has more options in the line out. A direct result of Toner’s dropping.
Another tight call in a competitive position. Dave has rebounded back from injury really well and looks to be in great form. We did not see Earls play so it may have been a competition during the play offs between Conway, Larmour and Kearney. It must have been close.
With a brilliant display on Saturday against the Welsh, this is another one that raised a few eyebrows. He may have made one bad call, trying to show off his speed and footwork but getting caught, but that was it. He is a definite prospect for the future.
I feel gutted for Byrne as I think he is in top form at the moment. He did not get a lot of opportunity against a brilliant English defence. One wonders whether Joe played him in that match simply to protect the three first-choice tens.
Another tough one to take in what has become a truly competitive position. The scrum is obviously something that Joe is concerned about, especially once we get into the knock out stages.
A great player in the past but injury has meant that he has missed a few opportunities for Ireland in the ultra-competitive back row slot. There has simply not been enough time for him to show what he is capable of and to dislodge the incumbents.
The Ulster hooker did not get much of an opportunity, playing only in the first game against Italy. It would have been difficult to dislodge the captain Rory Best, Sean Cronin, who had a great season and did well in his cameos appearances in the series, or Niall Scannell who was excellent against Wales.
Another player who did not get much of an opportunity to show what he can do this autumn. Rob Kearney is holding onto the full back jersey with two hands at the moment and with the cover in the squad it was always going to be a long shot for him to make the squad, only appearing off the bench in the Italian game.
Not seen yet: Henshaw, Earls, Sexton
There was never any doubt in my that any of these three were out of the squad despite not seeing any game time so far. All three have shown they can be dropped in without much game time and land running, so there should not be any worry about lack of match practice. But I would be surprised should they not see some time on the pitch this Saturday, assuming their injuries are healed.
All in all, it is a strong squad, with plenty of cover across a number of positions. Had there been space for one more, who would Joe have gone for? My guess is that Marmion would have been next followed by either Toner or Murphy, but such speculation is not worth much.
The waiting is almost over and at least the players now know exactly where they stand. This should be a good solid match against Wales on Saturday, with first team players returning to both match-day squads. Let’s keep fingers crossed that all forty-six players included come out the other side injury free.