With the squad announcement initially planned for Sunday’s World Rugby deadline, the Irish Rugby Football Union brought forward the unveiling and submitted the full list of players on Monday morning – which appears to have been in response to the team being revealed in the Irish Independent at the start of the week.
The 33-year-old lock Toner is the most surprise omission, with South African-born Jean Kleyn selected ahead of the Leinster forward to join James Ryan, Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne.
Schmidt has decided on a 17-14 split of forwards and backs, with a squad that will be captained by Rory Best in his fourth World Cup, yet sees more than half of those selected named in a World Cup squad for the first time.
One other standout decision sees Munster centre Chris Farrell preferred to Ulster back Will Addison, despite the latter’s strong showing against Wales last weekend, while Jack Carty beats Ross Byrne to selection to join Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery as Schmidt’s fly-half options.
“It was a difficult thing right from the start to have the 45 that we had,” said Schmidt. “We went down to 40 players and to go from 40 down to 31 was really difficult, but we had a process whereby we looked back through every training, looked through the games.
“There were some guys who obviously had more experience and probably had more credit in the bank and were more established and there were other guys who were trying to force their way into group and trying to get a balance of current form versus previous performance, it’s always a very, very difficult conundrum to try to solve.
“It was one of those typical selection meetings where maybe 20-25 of the players are listed straight away and it’s those ones where you’re trying to get balance where it’s very difficult to choose between two players and two players offer slightly different things, and you’re trying then to narrow down and trying to get the best balance across the squad of the entire 31 because that’s part of what you need to do. You’ve got to make sure you have cover that’s immediate even though you can replace players because there is obviously a big time delay in that.”
Schmidt has settled on five props, with two looseheads in the form of Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne joined by tightheads Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter and John Ryan, while captain Best is named with Sean Cronin and Niall Scannell as hookers.
Adding to the four second-row options are back-rows Jack Conan, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier, although both Henderson and Beirne are adept at playing in the back-row.
Schmidt will take just two scrum-halves in Conor Murray and Luke McGrath after dropping John Cooney a handful of weeks ago and leaving out Kieran Marmion, meaning five half-backs are included in total, while Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Farrell and Garry Ringrose make up the centre options.
Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale make up the back-three options, though Carbery is able to cover at full-back once he recovers from a lingering ankle injury.
Ireland depart for Japan on Wednesday 11 September ahead of their opening pool stage fixture against Scotland on the opening weekend of the tournament.
Ireland's final World Cup squad
Rory Best (Ulster) 119 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster) 8 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster) 15 caps
Sean Cronin (Leinster) 69 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster) 35 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster) 90 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster) 30 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster) 47 caps
Jean Kleyn (Munster) 2 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Munster) 59 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster) 17 caps
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster) 22 caps
James Ryan (Leinster) 18 caps
John Ryan (Munster) 20 caps
Niall Scannell (Munster) 16 caps
CJ Stander (Munster) 32 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster) 18 caps
Bundee Aki (Connacht) 19 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster) 19 caps
Jack Carty (Connacht) 6 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster) 15 caps
Keith Earls (Munster) 77 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster) 5 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster) 37 caps
Rob Kearney (Leinster) 91 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster) 15 caps
Luke McGrath (Leinster) 13 caps
Conor Murray (Munster) 73 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster) 23 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster) 83 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster) 20 caps
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