Simon Lewis analyses who will be happy with Joe Schmidt’s squad announcement for the November Series, and who missed out.
GOOD DAY FOR
The residency rules may be set to change, extending the qualifying period from three to five years, but Ireland have timed their bid for Aki’s services to perfection. The centre could have played for Samoa or New Zealand but after three years at Connacht, in which he was the PRO12 player of the season when they won the title in 2015-16, Aki seems here to stay.
While Simon Zebo quickly learned the consequences of deciding to leave Ireland, his Munster team-mate Farrell was reaping the benefits of his decision to move home. The centre left Ulster to find his feet in the professional game and was such a success in the Top14 with Grenoble that he earned a ticket back into the IRFU set-up with the southern province. Yesterday saw Farrell move further inside the tent.
When the talented athlete from Bandon, West Cork, had to choose between hurling with his county and professional rugby with his province it was no easy decision but elevation to the Ireland squad will be a vindication of the wing’s hard-reached choice.
BAD DAY FOR
From Aki to Zebo, the spectrum of emotions will have been covered yesterday following the squad announcement. While the former celebrated, the latter will have feared the worst, despite being the most in-form and fully-fit full-back in the country. In omitting the star soon to depart Munster, Schmidt issued a statement as well as a squad.
Having missed the summer tour to the US and Japan through injury, a fit-again Cronin appeared back to his rampaging top form during the early stages of Leinster’s season and primed to add to his 56 caps as back-up hooker to captain Rory Best. Yet he was overlooked for provincial rival James Tracy, with whom he has been rotating all season in the Leinster front row and Ulster’s Rob Herring.
The Corkman appeared in all three Tests on tour to the USA and Japan this summer, kicking three conversions and starting the first game against the Brave Blossoms. Nor was he lacking in form for Munster. Like Connacht’s overlooked full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, he can consider himself unlucky.
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