With a year left in the current cycle of NAIA football and with only one scholarship available for 2019, there is an urgent need for Irish rugby to fill an incoming class void that is likely to be filled by a number of the top players.
As reported earlier this week, the 2017 and 2018 NCAA National Championship teams, as well as the top Irish men’s teams in 2019, will all be represented at the 2019 NCAAs.
The best available talent pool in the world is available for the players to choose from in 2019 and with the national squad having been reduced from 12 players to seven in 2019 due to the retirement of All Black legend Brian O’Driscoll, it’s likely the Irish rugby coaching staff will be looking to find a way to bring back the likes of Sean O’Brien, Robbie Henshaw, Richie McCaw and Ollie Coyle to the Irish squad for the 2019 campaign.
The Ireland squad for 2019 will consist of 13 players and the first priority for the coaches will be to bring in a replacement for O’Connor, a player who was one of the most dominant players in the history of the sport in his first three years with the club.
O’Connor is one of a number who will leave the club for other opportunities in 2019.
A number of them, like Eoin Colfer, are likely to depart the team for a variety of reasons, but this is the first time a full list of potential replacements has been put out there.
The Irish will also need to fill some gaps in the squad, especially at lock, where the likes and loanees are expected to be added to the squad.
With the squad already depleted in this position, it would seem unlikely that there will be a huge influx of talent for the position in 2019 but with the number of players currently in the club who have already left, the next logical step will be adding some players who are in the position of being available to fill it.
One of those players is lock Ryan Cronin.
The highly-rated young lock is contracted to the province of Ireland until the end of 2020, and has been an integral part of the Ireland backline since his arrival from Connacht.
Cronin has been a revelation for the province over the past three years, taking the province by storm in the early part of this season, but he’s also been highly regarded in the national ranks.
In 2019, the province will be represented in a number games in the ODI series against the UAE and the T20 international tournament against New Zealand.
The provinces only ODI game against the Lions in 2019 will be against the Irish, with the first ODI match being in Cardiff on April 9th.
While there is a big demand for Cronin’s services from the provinces, the fact that he is contracted until the year 2020 will limit the availability of him to the provinces.
Another potential recruit to the club is flanker and lock Robbie Hogg.
In recent years, Hogg has been one of Ireland’s most promising players and he’s been a regular in the Irish team in recent years.
He’s had a very successful stint at the club, playing in 20 games, scoring 16 tries.
At 6’6″ and 198 pounds, Hagg has an outstanding size for a flanker, but will need to add some muscle to his frame to compete in the scrum.
He has also been linked with a number clubs in the country, including Toulon and France.
A number of other positions in the line-up have been discussed in recent weeks.
A number players from the province’s international squad will also be eligible for selection in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Ireland will be participating in the World Cup in 2019 with the country’s first ever squad of players, and their top ranked team will be one of three nations in the tournament.
Ireland are currently tied for third in the standings behind Australia and New Zealand, but they have a lot of work to do to make up the ground.
In the meantime, there are some talented players who could be on the move to Ireland, including wing George Smith and full back John Mooney.
Smith is coming off of a career year in the 2017-18 season, scoring 18 tries and scoring four tries in the NCAI.
He was one the stars of the NCCU’s Rugby World Championship, scoring the winning try in the semi-final against Australia.
The 24-year-old is set to make his international debut in 2019 as part of Ireland, and will be hoping to impress the coaching staff and the rest of the national rugby management staff to get the chance to play for the national side in 2019-20.