The Rise of the Irish - 2019 Rugby World Cup Contenders

With the 2019 Rugby World Cup edging ever closer, Darry Worthington gives his view on Ireland's chances of lifting the William Webb Ellis Trophy.

Ireland's 2018 Grand Slam was a watershed moment for veteran coach Joe Schmidt. Not only did the achievement come a year out from the World Cup but it also illustrated the squad depth that Irish rugby currently enjoys with Ireland managing to beat all in sundry with talismanic veterans Robbie Henshaw and Jamie Heaslip sidelined for the majority of the tournament.

As we all know, great squad depth has been a hallmark of all World Cup winning teams and the Irish have a playing pool to rival even that of the mighty All Blacks.
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Starting XV & Back-Up Side
To illustrate just how strong the Irish World Cup squad could be, I've drawn up two possible sides, below. The first is arguably Ireland's strongest squad while the second has a very nice blend of youth and experience - just what you want from your second stringers at the showpiece tournament.

Starting XV 
1. Cian Healey  2. Rory Best 3. Tadgh Furlong  4. Devin Toner 5. Iain Henderson 6. Sean O'Brien 7. Peter O'Mahony 8. CJ Stander 9. Connor Murray 10. Johnny Sexton 11. Jacob Stockdale 12. Robbie Henshaw 13. Garry Ringrose 14. Keith Earls 15. Rob Kearney

Back-Up Xv
1. Jack McGrath 2. Sean Cronin 3. Andrew Porter  4. James Ryan 5. Quinn Roux  6. Jordi Murphy 7. Dan Leavy 8. Jamie Heaslip 9. Kieran Marmion 10. Joey Carbery 11. Andrew Conway 12. Bundee Aki 13. Jared Payne 14. Fergus Mcfadden 15. Jordan Larmour

There are some quality players in the proposed back - up XV who could easily slot into the starting side. One youngster who could well find himself elevated to the first string is Jordan Larmour. The utility back has enjoyed a sensational season for both club and country, and I actually think he will end up being the 2019 IRB Breakthrough Player of The Year.

World Cup Chances
Now, the Irish are currently trading at a crazy price of 9/2 to win next year's tournament. The reason for this is more down to their historical failings at the showpiece event rather than form. In fact, the men from the 'emerald isle' have never got past the quarter-final stage.

However, this is a completely different group of players. They are full of confidence and know how to beat the best in the business, on neutral soil and at home, as their victory over the All Blacks in Chicago back in 2016 attests to, also last year's win in Dublin.

They also find themselves in a relatively easy pool which will feature Scotland, Japan, and one of the repechage qualifiers and most likely, Georgia. As such, they should top their pool with ease, which would set up a quarter-final against one of the second-placed pool phase finishers.

If they can avoid the Springboks in the quarters, then the Irish may well find themselves contesting a semi-final against the English or New Zealand. And they certainly know how to beat both of those sides.

At 9/2, the Irish are certainly worth a punt to finally break their World Cup duck!

Written by Darry Worthington for

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