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06th Jan 2020

Only three Irish inclusions in ‘world class’ 31

Patrick McCarry


Unsurprisingly, 18 of the selected players are from the World Cup finalists.

As well as serving up one classic semi-final and a decent final, the Rugby World Cup made scoff of the world rankings and dented the reputations of several top players and coaches.

South Africa took home the Webb Ellis trophy after handily seeing off an England side that had stunned the previous world champions New Zealand with a superb last four performance. Wales were the other semi-finalists but injuries along the way softened their cough. As for Ireland, they exited with a quarter final whimper after running into a well oiled and ruthless All Blacks side.

The changing fortunes of several of the world’s top sides, and players, is reflected in an annual ‘Best 31’ squad selection by leading rugby statistician Simon Gleave.

Going off the premise of selecting a World Cup style squad, the Gracenote analyst looked at the data and put forward nominees for his thousands of followers to vote on. The make-up of the squad is such: Looseheads (x3), Hookers (x3), Tightheads (x3), Locks (x4), Back rows (x5), Scrum-halves (x3), Out-halves (x3), Centres (x3), Back three (x5).

Following the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, Gleave’s 31-man selection had four Irish inclusions:

  • Tadhg Furlong
  • Peter O’Mahony
  • Conor Murray
  • Johnny Sexton

Ireland finished third in the 2019 Six Nations but climbed to No.1 in the world when they won three of their four World Cup warm-up matches. They lost to Japan in the group stages but reached the last eight before coming up short against New Zealand.

10 months on, the 31 players on the updated list heavily reflect the goings on in Japan. South Africa and England have nine players apiece while New Zealand’s representation is cut from eight (in 2019) to four. Ireland have three men included:

  • Cian Healy
  • Tadhg Furlong
  • Johnny Sexton

Leinster and Ireland loosehead Cian Healy has sufficiently impressed many rugby supporters to jump ahead of Joe Moody but the Munster pairing of O’Mahony and Murray miss out.

There is little room for Irish grumbling, given our patchy 2019 form, but James Ryan is unlucky to miss out. According to Gleave, 35 other players did receive nominations.

Ryan was one of those players and is joined on that list by the likes of Aaron Wainwright (Wales), Shota Horie (Japan), Elliot Daly (England) and South Africa’s World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi.



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