Devin Toner has been confirmed as the shock omission from Ireland’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.
The 33-year-old Leinster lock has numbered among Joe Schmidt’s most trusted lieutenants, starting 50 of the Kiwi head coach’s 67 Test matches as Ireland boss.
But Jean Kleyn has been given the nod ahead of Toner, with boss Schmidt selecting Munster’s South Africa-born star alongside Iain Henderson, James Ryan and Tadhg Beirne in a four-strong lock cordon. Kleyn only qualified for Ireland on residency two days before his Test debut, the 29-10 victory over Italy on 10 August. Now the 26-year-old has edged out Toner, who has proved a lineout and restart banker throughout Schmidt’s six years at Ireland’s helm.
“To go from 40 players down to 31 was really difficult, but we had a process whereby we looked back through every training, looked through the games,” said head coach Schmidt.
“There were some guys who obviously had more experience and probably had more credit in the bank and were more established and there were other guys who were trying to force their way into the group, and trying to get a balance of current form versus previous performance, it’s always a very, very difficult conundrum to solve.”
Munster’s Chris Farrell has forced his way into Ireland’s four-strong centre ranks ahead of Ulster’s Will Addison, with Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose also present. Rory Best continues as captain as expected, the 37-year-old Ulster hooker already boasting 119 caps.
Leinster’s Luke McGrath has edged out Kieran Marmion at scrum-half, with Ireland taking just two recognised nines to Japan. Fly-half Joey Carbery will cover scrum-half as an emergency option, with Schmidt taking three 10s.
Jack Carty has won selection ahead of Ross Byrne as Ireland’s third playmaker, with Andrew Conway earning a place among a five-strong back-three group.