Diarmuid Barron travels with Ireland squad ahead of World Cup warm-up game against Samoa

Dan Sheehan, Jack Conan and David Kilcoyne didn’t travel with squad to Biarritz

Munster hooker Diarmuid Barron has travelled with the Irish squad to Biarritz and was among those who trained in the Stade Jean Dauger in Bayonne on Monday morning before next Saturday’s final World Cup warm-up game against Samoa.

As already reported, the IRFU has confirmed that Dan Sheehan did not travel with the squad due to the foot injury that forced him off before half-time in last Saturday’s 29-10 win over England at the Aviva Stadium.

The Leinster hooker has remained in Dublin along with Jack Conan, who also suffered a foot injury in the opening warm-up win over Italy a fortnight previously, and David Kilcoyne.

At face value, Barron’s call-up to supplement the quartet of hookers already in the 38-man training squad looks a tad ominous, all the more so given Ronan Kelleher was prevented from making his seasonal re-appearance last Saturday due to a hamstring injury.


While Andy Farrell expressed his confidence that Kelleher’s issue would not jeopardise his participation in the World Cup, and likewise Kilcoyne and Conan, he seemed somewhat concerned about Sheehan’s injury, and small wonder.

Various injuries have restricted Kelleher’s game time over the last year and a half. Since the 2022 Six Nations, he has played just three times for Ireland, starting only once.

By contrast, Sheehan’s stock has risen in Kelleher’s absence, so much so that he has already won 18 caps since his debut in November 2021 against Japan. Sheehan started all three Tests in New Zealand against the All Blacks, both wins over the Springboks and the Wallabies last November, as well as three of Ireland’s games in their Grand Slam campaign, which he topped off with a two-try, man of the match performance.

He was shortlisted for the Rugby Players’ Player of the Year award and was voted the URC Players’ Player of the Season award.

Although the ultra-competitive English defensive line-out caused all manner of problems for Ireland last Saturday, at 6ft 3in and having been a specialist hooker, his throwing is generally excellent. Such has been his explosive carrying, footwork and eye for the tryline, as well as work in the scrum, that the former Irish hooker Jerry Flannery described the 24-year-old Sheehan as the best hooker in the world in his view during the interval last Saturday on pitch side.

Whatever about that, the Sheehan-Kelleher duo is capable of rivalling the interchangeable Bongi Mbonambi/Malcolm Marx double act that was so integral to the Springboks winning the World Cup four years ago and has remained the benchmark ever since.

It would certainly help Ireland’s chances of emulating them no end if the two Leinster tyros remain fit and healthy.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times