Rory Best to lead Ireland at Rugby World Cup in Japan

Rory Best will captain Ireland at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Pic by INPHO.
Rory Best will captain Ireland at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Pic by INPHO.
Share this article

Rory Best has been confirmed as captain of Ireland’s 31-strong squad for the Rugby World Cup.

The 37-year-old from Poyntzpass will lead the panel, having previously appeared at tournaments in 2007, 2011 and 2015 on his way to 119 caps.

Devin Toner has been confirmed as the shock omission.

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 August 10.

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.

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 forcing his way into a five-strong back-three group.

Carbery is recovering from an ankle problem but Ireland insist he will be ready for the Pool A kick-off, against Scotland in Yokohama on September 22.

Johnny Sexton suffered a thumb sprain at the start of the summer and has since carried a minor leg bump, but Schmidt insisted after Saturday’s 22-17 win over Wales in Cardiff that the British and Irish Lions star was fully fit.

Ireland hope Sexton will be able to prove his fitness in their final World Cup warm-up match, Saturday’s return clash with Wales in Dublin.

Ireland will open the World Cup against Scotland in Tokyo on September 22 ahead of Pool A fixtures with Japan, Russia and Samoa.

Ireland squad for 2019 Rugby World Cup:

Forwards: R Best (Ulster, capt), T Beirne (Munster), J Conan, S Cronin, T Furlong, C Healy (all Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), I Henderson (Ulster), J Kleyn, P O’Mahony (both Munster), A Porter, R Ruddock, James Ryan (all Leinster), John Ryan, N Scannell, CJ Stander (all Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster).

Backs: B Aki (Connacht), J Carbery (Munster), J Carty (Connacht), A Conway, K Earls, C Farrell (all Munster), R Henshaw, R Kearney, J Larmour, L McGrath (all Leinster), C Murray (Munster), G Ringrose, J Sexton (both Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster).