Four Irish players desperately unlucky to miss out on World Cup squad
The door is not closed, but this quartet will have every right to be concerned.
Jean Kleyn and Mike Haley are the uncapped players in Ireland's extended, 44-man training squad (named earlier today) but much of the resulting discourse will be around those that have not made the cut.
Haley and Leinster winger Dave Kearney were the two surprise calls in Joe Schmidt's training squad. Their inclusions, if anything, highlight how Schmidt is still tinkering with his back three options ahead of the World Cup.
Keith Earls, Jacob Stockdale, Rob Kearney and Jordan Larmour are the four certainties for that unit, but Schmidt has yet to settle on the support cast. Will Addison (not included as out injured since January) could yet come into the mix if he returns from back surgery in good nick.
Players such as Caolin Blade, Darren Sweetnam, Sam Arnold, Adam Byrne, Fergus McFadden and Mike Lowry have all missed out, but here are the four players we feel are most unlucky not to be involved.
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster)
Sitting in the press seats at the Aviva Stadium (Ulster vs. Leinster, Champions Cup) and Kingspan Stadium (Ulster vs. Connacht, PRO14), it was hard not to marvel at the sheer destructive power of McCloskey in full flow.
Looking at the Ulster centre smashing through defensive lines, offloading under extreme duress and tackling lads into next week made you wonder just what McCloskey could do if Schmidt made him a primary focus. As it turns out, Schmidt has only capped him three times in three years.
Ahead of the squad announcement, Andrew Trimble praised McCloskey but had his doubts that he would get the shout from Schmidt.
"McCloskey has been brilliant for ages. He hasn't got any more brilliant. That's the thing. And the one area, well back row and centre are the two areas where being brilliant might not just be enough. Hopefully it is because he's probably Ulster's most important player. He is the guy that gets gainlines."
Ulster Players' Player of the Year but unable to force his way past Munster's Chris Farrell for that fourth centre spot (with Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw locking down the other three).
Max Deegan (Leinster)
The former U20 Player of the Year has enjoyed an outstanding year for Leinster, making 24 appearances (11 starts), scoring six tries and taking home a few man of the match awards.
May have been a season too soon to challenge the likes of Josh van der Flier and Peter O'Mahony for starting back row slots but would have hoped for squad involvement to test himself against the very best.
Quinn Roux (Connacht)
12 Test appearances for Ireland, including four in the most recent Six Nations, but surplus to requirements... this time.
It is worth noting that Roux was not in the initial Six Nations squad but injuries to Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson saw him drafted in and he started the wins over Scotland and Italy. The inclusion of Kleyn ultimately cost him a place in the extended squad.
Jack O'Donoghue (Munster)
Many expected O'Donoghue to make the squad after Dan Leavy and Sean O'Brien were ruled out through injury. Missed most of the season as he recovered from knee surgery but returned in late February to play six times over the closing months.
Was excellent in the Champions Cup quarter final against Edinburgh and battled manfully against a fierce Saracens team in the semis. Only 25 but already has 100 Munster appearances, despite missing the guts of a year after his knee injury.
That last back row slot was expected to be a shoot-out between O'Donoghue and Leinster's Max Deegan but, instead, it with to Munster openside Tommy O'Donnell.
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