DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland lock Devin Toner was the surprise omission from Joe Schmidt’s World Cup squad on Monday, as Jean Kleyn edged out the experienced Leinster man less than a month after making his international debut.
A near ever-present throughout Schmidt’s six years in charge with 67 caps, the 2.10 metre tall Toner’s lineout abilities were sacrificed for Kleyn’s power up front after the South African-born lock qualified to play for Ireland just last month.
“I’ve coached Dev for 10 years and he’s not just a lineout champion for us, he’s such a good player and an absolutely quality person. That was an incredibly tough conversation,” Joe Schmidt told the Irish Rugby Football Association’s website.
“With Jean Kleyn, we probably don’t have a specialist tighthead second row as such. It’s a balance we’re looking for across that squad of 31. Jean Kleyn fitted that and Tadhg Beirne gives you the versatility of both a second row and a back row.”
Schmidt was able to name a strong squad after no major injury concerns emerged since flankers Sean O’Brien and Dan Leavy were ruled out at the end of last season, meaning reserve flyhalf Joey Carbery travels while recovering from injury.
The other tight calls were on the periphery with Luke McGrath favoured to Kieran Marmion as backup scrumhalf, Rhys Ruddock pipping Jordi Murphy in the backrow mix and Will Addison unlucky not to make it as a versatile option in the backs.
Ireland, who face hosts Japan, Scotland Russia and Samoa in Pool A, will complete their preparations against Six Nations champions Wales on Saturday before they open their World Cup campaign against the Scots on Sept. 22.
Forwards (17): CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Jack Conan, Tadhg Beirne, Jean Kleyn, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Rory Best (captain), Niall Scannell, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan
Backs (14): Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Andrew Conway, Jordan Larmour, Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Conor Murray, Luke McGrath
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)