With Ireland’s first match in the Rugby World Cup just four weeks away, we take a look at star players who will be key to their Webb Ellis trophy prospects in Japan.
Regarded as one of the best scrumhalves in the world, there are few weaknesses evident in the 30-year-old’s game with crisp passing, unselfish decision-making, accurate box kicking and voracious work-rate at the centre of his broad skillset. Murray will need to be at his immaculate best if Ireland are to break the glass ceiling and reach a first World Cup semi-final.
The 34-year-old’s form has been called into question in recent months but, when firing, he can cause serious damage with ball in hand. He is feisty, intelligent, an excellent decision maker and his kicking will be key to Ireland’s attack in Japan. He isn’t World Player of the Year for nothing, but needs to be at his very best in Japan.
The 23-year-old may only be in his third year in professional rugby but Ryan is developing into a leader and his physicality can set the tone for his team in defence and at the breakdown. At 6’7, the line-out is his obvious chief strength, but away from that he puts in a serious shift to get on the ball and put teammates in favourable attacking positions. The Leinster man can get around the field like a six-litre Maserati and always steps up against elite opposition.
The Ulster man has established himself as one of the best wingers in world rugby over the past 18 months. With 14 tries in 20 matches, the 23-year-old will be one of the key players that Joe Schmidt will be looking towards for inspiration this autumn. At 6ft 3in, the Lurgan man possesses pace, power and a reliability under the high ball, but his defence still needs work. Although he is some way off his 2018 form, Japan is the perfect time to turn it around and prove people wrong.
A class act. The 26-year-old is one of the inspirational leaders of an industrious Ireland front row alongside Cian Healy. The Leinster man shows up all over the pitch and is fearless in the tight areas. On his day he sets the standard for every prop in world rugby.
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