Ireland's four best players from a sobering World Cup campaign 4 weeks ago

Ireland's four best players from a sobering World Cup campaign

Two of the four did not even make the starting XV against New Zealand.

Ireland's players will return home over the coming days and the World Cup as the four form teams set their sights on the Webb Ellis trophy. The coming days, weeks and even months will be tough for a squad of players that believed they had something special brewing.

Johnny Sexton fronted two press briefings in the days leading up to the quarter final against New Zealand and told the world that this team were capable of great deeds. They were capable of proving the doubters wrong.

In the end, Ireland fell far, far short against an All Blacks team that are deserved favourites to retain their world crown. In 2018, Ireland won 11 from 12 Test matches and claimed a Grand Slam and the scalps of Australia (twice) and New Zealand along the way. In 2019, they have lost five of their 14 matches and regressed as the top sides have pushed on.

On the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery looked back on Ireland's faltering World Cup campaign with a critical eye. They also [from 1:03:30] selected Ireland's top four players from the five-match campaign.

Dave Kilcoyne in action against Wales, in the World Cup warm-up series. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Trimble and Flannery were both tasked with selecting their top three players of Ireland's campaign. Trimble gave consideration to the four warm-up games, too, but Flannery focused purely on how the players fared when they got to Japan.

The former Ireland internationals both included two players in their top threes.

TRIMBLE'S TOP THREE

  • Garry Ringrose
  • Andrew Conway
  • Dave Kilcoyne

"I've gone for slightly unorthodox picks," says Trimble, "as two of them didn't even start [against New Zealand]. Conway was incredible in the air, ran good support lines and got three tries. He didn't make that final [match-day] squad and things may have been different had he started against New Zealand.

"Kilcoyne is Ireland's most improved player but that accolade sells him short, and Ringrose was fantastic."

FLANNERY'S TOP THREE

  • Johnny Sexton
  • Garry Ringrose
  • Andrew Conway

"There's a notable mention for Rory Best as well," says Flannery, "when you think about the pressure that was on him coming into that tournament. Delivered against Scotland, not great against Japan, but then pitched up in the other games and got a couple of tries.

"With Sexton, when he was playing well he was our best player, and then Ringrose and Conway."

Trimble feels Kilcoyne was a justifiable shout for the No.1 jersey, ahead of Cian Healy, while the fact that Joe Schmidt left in-form Chris Farrell and Andrew Conway out of his match-day 23 shows that not all the selections were on form.


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The latest episode sees Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery look back on Ireland's World Cup exit to New Zealand.