Rugby World CupInjury update

Ireland v South Africa: Jack Crowley set to make bench as Andy Farrell considers 6-2 split

Munster outhalf’s versatility to cover backline would allow coach to name six forwards including Jack Conan and Finlay Bealham

Jack Crowley looks set to be in the matchday 23 as back-up outhalf to Johnny Sexton in Ireland’s crunch pool meeting with South Africa on Saturday night in the Stade de France (kick-off 9pm local time/8pm Irish).

The 23-year-old Corkman was put in front of the media at the squad’s base in the Complexe de la Chambrarie in Tours on Tuesday and while that doesn’t absolutely guarantee anything it does underline the likelihood of Crowley’s versatility being chosen ahead of Ross Byrne.

The probability also remains that were Sexton rested or ruled out for any game in this World Cup then Byrne, more of a specialist outhalf, would wear the No 10 jersey. But Crowley’s ability to cover 10, 12 and 15 – where he has played with equal facility for Munster – provides Andy Farrell with more cover off the bench.

Availing of Crowley’s versatility on the bench does also offer Farrell more elbow room in breaking with tradition by opting for a 6-2 split on the bench, with the Springboks having named seven forwards on their bench, along with scrumhalf Cobus Reinach.


A 6-2 split on the Irish bench would also make it more plausible to accommodate Jack Conan. The number eight was doing “bits and pieces” of the squad’s full session on Tuesday according to scrum coach John Fogarty as the backrower nears a full recovery from the torn foot ligament he sustained in the opening warm-up game against Italy over six weeks ago.

“At this moment in time he’s taken part in training, he’s done bits and pieces. He’ll do more tomorrow and it’s then a decision to see how he is. He’s getting monitored like any returning player. He’s up for selection.

Fogarty also said that Finlay Bealham had passed all his tests and will be available.

“He’s perfect. He was in a scrum today and he’s good to go, symptom free, our medics and World Rugby have cleared him fit to play. We’re delighted to have a full bill of health,” said Fogarty, who added that Dan Sheehan had taken a full part in training.

Whether Farrell sticks with a traditional 5-3 split or breaks with custom by opting for 6-2, Crowley does look set to play a part. Of his 42 games for province and country, only 17 have been in the starting line-up, and just 15 of those have been with 10 on his back, but it appears his versatility will come in useful this week.

Besides which, Crowley has always seen this as a blessing more than a curse.

“You might look at things and see them as a negative, and at times they can be, but for me learning in all of these different positions was a massive thing I took at the start. I never looked at it as a negative, being able to cover different positions.

“Like I’ve said before, if you’re at 15, you know what the 10 is going to be looking for, and when you’re at 10 you know what the 15 is going to be defending like.

“So, to get that exposure and those experiences is massive and game time at any time is massive, so to be able to go out there and play 15 or play 12, I don’t really mind, I just like being involved and helping out where I can.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times