Kieran Marmion has every right to be pissed off after World Cup omission 2 weeks ago

Kieran Marmion has every right to be pissed off after World Cup omission

Back in November 2018, Kieran Marmion and Devin Toner started Ireland's first ever home win over reigning world champions New Zealand.

Many Irish fans would contend that Kieran Marmion should be Ireland's starting No.9 at the World Cup. Instead, this September and October, he will be battling with Caolin Blade for the Connacht No.9 jersey.

For a couple of players well used to proving doubters wrong, it must have felt so satisfying to play excellent roles in that Irish win.

10 months on and both players are still absorbing the news that they will not be representing their country in Japan. Jordi Murphy, who came off the bench in that win over the All Blacks, is not going to the World Cup either. Joe Schmidt has made his decision and three players with a total of 123 caps behind them have been cut loose.

On the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, former Ireland internationals Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery discussed the Marmion omission and Joe Schmidt's other big calls.

Joe Schmidt with Kieran Marmion prior to the World Cup warm-up match between Wales and Ireland at the Principality Stadium. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

The decision to go with Conor Murray and Luke McGrath as the two scrum-halves in Ireland's squad is, to my mind, the biggest call in Schmidt's 31-man squad.

Given that Conor Murray has not returned to 100% since he returned to action, last December, Schmidt must have been tempted to bring three scrum-halves. The statistics say that the third No.9 does not get much game-time at World Cups but this means Murray and McGrath will be in constant game-week rotation.

If Schmidt had pondered bringing an extra ball-slinger, that plan would have soon been jettisoned when Joey Carbery injured his ankle against Italy. That meant Ireland would have to select two out-halves and a recovering Carbery and the room to manoeuvre got tighter still.

In the end, the toss up was between Marmion and McGrath and it is surprising that Schmidt went with the Leinster man. Marmion has started just eight of his 27 Test appearances but a few of them were in big, high-pressure games [England in 2017 and Argentina and New Zealand last November].

The Connacht man has shown that he can fill in holes across the backline, off the bench. He has played centre and winger, as a sub, for Ireland and made a couple of memorable tackles on forwards David Pocock (Australia) and Ross Moriarty (Wales). Even at the weekend, he made one impressive ruck clear-out and another turnover inside his half. Teams underestimate Marmion at their peril.

McGrath got the start against Italy, on 10 August, and did well - tidy passing and good support lines - while Marmion replaced him in the second half and helped himself to a try. McGrath has three starts in 13 Test outings but Schmidt loves his ice-cool mentality.

It was McGrath that finished out that All Blacks win, last year, after replacing Marmion and it was McGrath that dinked a lovely kick up and over a ruck to pin England into the corner, in the 2017 Grand-Slam-denying Irish victory.

The 26-year-old has the stones to play Test rugby but Marmion is a Schmidt acolyte through-and-through and has proved he can get the job done at the highest level.

It is a shame that both can't go to Japan but there is no way Marmion should be the one left behind as Ireland jet off on their World Cup odyssey.

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The latest episodes sees Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery discuss Ireland's World Cup squad selection and look ahead to their final warm-up game against Wales.