Fitzgerald and O'Leary miss out
August 22, 2011
O'Leary started for Ireland against France on Saturday © Getty Images
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has announced his 30-man squad charged with the goal of winning the World Cup but there is no place for Tomas O'Leary or Luke Fitzgerald.
And Geordan Murphy has been named in Ireland's squad just 48 hours after being resigned to missing out. Murphy's selection for the second string against Connacht last Thursday appeared to terminate his hopes of travelling to New Zealand, signalling the end of his Test career in the process.
But the foot injury sustained by Felix Jones during Saturday's defeat by France cleared the path for a dramatic return to favour. With coach Kidney refusing to trust utility players Keith Earls and Fitzgerald to supply cover for first-choice full-back Rob Kearney, he has turned to the 33-year-old Leicester captain.
Four years ago Murphy made one appearance at the World Cup in France, while in 2003 he missed out altogether after breaking his leg on the eve of the squad announcement. But along with scrum-half Conor Murray, who is a surprise inclusion after profiting from O'Leary's collapse in form, he has benefited from a rival's misfortune.
"Geordan - isn't that a real case of the highs and lows of sport?" said Kidney. "I was involved eight years ago when Geordan broke his leg in Edinburgh. Now he gets his opportunity here too.
"He's an experienced man and brings a lot off the pitch as well as on it. We went through a situation in the Six Nations when Geordan, Rob and Felix were all injured. Two of the three are fit now. It's a specialist position and you need to know what you're doing, especially at this level."
On Saturday, Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill indicated he was expecting Murphy back at Welford Road, but today's development has left him without his club captain for two months. Few will begrudge Murphy, capped 66 times, his ticket to New Zealand even if it is at the expense of Jones.
More dramatic was Murray's presence among the 30 names on the list read out this afternoon. Even Kidney admits there is something of the "unknown" about the 22-year-old, who only broke into Munster's team this year when he capitalised on an eye problem incurred by O'Leary. Having replaced O'Leary for Munster he has now done the same with Ireland, ousting a rival who had been playing on reputation alone until Kidney finally lost patience with him following a dismal display on Saturday.
"What Conor can do is little bit of an unknown. He has had a good pre-season but a limited amount of opportunity on the pitch," said Kidney. "He's taken his chance with both hands and that's how we ended up with the decision."
Alongside O'Leary, Fitzgerald was another big-name casualty to suffer amid a collapse of form. Fitzgerald played well as a second-half substitute against France at the Aviva Stadium, but it was not enough to convince Kidney he should travel.
Instead, Fergus McFadden's ability to cover wing and centre appears to have secured his place among the 30. "Fergus had a good tournament at the Churchill Cup two years ago," said Kidney. "He got an opportunity at the start of the Six Nations this year and took that, so he was unlucky to lose out. Since then he's kept fighting."
Most of the squad, which is led by Brian O'Driscoll, picked itself with a 16-14 split between forwards and backs. Only four props will travel with Tony Buckley securing the last available place, beating off competition from John Hayes and Marcus Horan.
Donnacha Ryan travels as the fourth lock but also offers back-row cover while Stephen Ferris features after making his first appearance since January on Saturday. Andrew Trimble's fine form during the summer is rewarded and his rival wing Tommy Bowe is present despite not having played this month because of a foot injury.
"There's no right way of giving out bad news and there's no doubt that some of the lads who haven't been selected will do a Tommy Bowe," said Kidney. "They'll come back and burn off everyone over the next 12-24 months. And I'll be delighted when I see them do that.
"When you tell players bad news there's no point trying to fill them with smoke. They take it and they move on and get themselves ready for the next game.
"They're pros and it's a fairly cut-throat business in that way."
Forwards: R Best (Ulster), T Buckley (Sale), T Court (Ulster), S Cronin (Leinster), L Cullen (Leinster), S Ferris (Ulster), J Flannery (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster), D Leamy (Munster) S O'Brien (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), M Ross (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster), D Wallace (Munster)
Backs: I Boss (Leinster), T Bowe (Ospreys), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Kearney (Leinster), F McFadden (Leinster), G Murphy (Leicester), C Murray (Munster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), R O'Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), J Sexton (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), P Wallace (Ulster)
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