Simon Zebo was omitted from the Irish squad for the upcoming Autumn internationals, just three days after Munster announced the winger-cum-fullback would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
The 27-year-old is expected to sign a lucrative deal at Racing 92, and with Ireland’s policy for not selecting overseas-based players, it is now unlikely he will feature at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
In light of Zebo’s omission, it presents a number of rising and in-form stars with an opportunity to step up and stake a claim for a spot in Joe Schmidt’s squad.
Although the likes of Rob and David Kearney and Keith Earls are already established stars who can play in the back three, here’s a look at five players we expect to shine in the build-up to the World Cup.
Who do you think deserves a chance in Schmidt’s team?
IRELAND CAPS: 4
PRO 14 STATS 2017/18: 2 tries in four matches
One of the most exciting names in Joe Schmidt’s squad, Carbery has been a totemic presence since his elevation to the Leinster starting 15 last season.
Made his first Irish cap when replacing Johnny Sexton with 22 minutes to go against the All Blacks last November, and has looked a class act since.
The New Zealand-born player is also an option at out-half, which makes his presence at 15 against the Springboks a little risky, especially with Ireland’s lack of options at 10 at present.
At 21, Carbery has buckets of potential, and hasn’t looked out of place at full-back for Leinster in Rob Kearney’s absence.
IRELAND CAPS: 2
PRO 14 STATS 2017/18: 4 tries in four matches
The emerging Ulsterman made a tonic start to his Ireland career in June and looks set for a starting berth in November.
The 21-year-old has been in scintillating form this season for Les Kiss’ side, scoring five tries in six games.
He was also the stand-out performer in recent wins over Connacht and Wasps, capping off both performances with superb tries.
At 6’5, he possesses pace, power, good defence and reliability under the high ball, and can act as an option for full-back, centre and wing.
On form he should be granted his place in the 22, although it is unlikely the Tyrone man will be presented with a starting place against South Africa. He should get the nod for Fiji or Argentina.
IRELAND CAPS: 3
PRO 14 STATS 2017/18: 1 try in seven matches
The Munster man has been primarily used on the wing during his time at Thomond Park, but is a rock solid presence at full-back.
One of the best in the business under the high ball, the 26-year-old has pace to burn, solid tackling ability, good positioning and is a lethal finisher.
Although he is ruled out for the Springboks clash due to a red card against Connacht, the Dublin man should be selected in the match day squads for Fiji and Argentina.
If Schmidt has one eye on the World Cup then he needs to give the industrious winger chances to continue developing his skills on the international stage.
IRELAND CAPS: 0
PRO 14 STATS 2017/18: 2 tries in five matches
Was unlucky not to be selected for Ireland’s summer tour after a stunning Pro 12 campaign last season.
The Munsterman is a towering presence at wing or fullback and has a penchant for scoring tries, with two already this season.
The 24-year-old may be uncapped but is starting to show signs of his class the longer he is in the professional game.
His voracious work-rate has makes him a key inclusion to any squad.
IRELAND CAPS: 6
PRO 14 STATS 2017/18: 3 tries in five matches
Produced a sensational performance against Munster on Friday to lay down a marker after his latest Irish snub.
The 26-year-old has electric pace, coupled with strong offloading capabilities and is a reliable option if Schmidt is short on back three players.
If an injury occurs over the next few weeks, except the Galway native to be called up.
He’s too good not to get another chance.
Know more about Sport360 Application