JOE SCHMIDT NAMED a 44-man squad ahead of the Six Nations earlier today, meaning there is very little issue to be taken.
The inclusion of so many players doesn’t give us any clear indication of the eventual match-day squad, but there are some interesting new faces in the mix. Here are the seven uncapped players Schmidt has included in his squad.
The Wexford native’s ongoing strong form for the Cardiff Blues has been rewarded with his first senior international call-up. The 26-year-old is in his second season in Wales following spells with Rotherham and Plymouth in the English championship, as well as time in Leinster’s academy.
Standing at 6ft 5ins and 110kg, Copeland has played plenty of his rugby in the second row, but is happiest at No. 8. His powerful ball carrying has always been the most prominent feature of his game, but this season he has added improved technique and awareness to his physical gifts. His move to Munster next season may see him become a fixture of the Ireland squad.
A man whose excellence for Connacht this season made him impossible to leave out. The Wales-born scrum-half has incredibly played in every single one of Connacht’s last 45 games, with 43 of those appearances coming in the starting team. More remarkably, his form his been consistently superb.
Marmion scores against Saracens earlier this season. ©INPHO/James Crombie.
An intelligent, probing scrum-half, the 21-year-old is already confident enough to boss his forward pack around the pitch in open play. Marmion is alert in sniping around the fringes of rucks and is physically very capable. Looks set for a big future with Ireland.
Part of the extended squad for the 2013 version of the Six Nations, Diack is deservedly back again this year. Having played for the Emerging Ireland team last summer, the South Africa-born back row has grown hugely as a player this season.
Touching down against Montpellier. ©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd.
Superb in the line-out, hard-working around the pitch and a solid ball carrier, the 28-year-old has also impressed with his leadership. Being handed the captain’s armband during the recent absence of Johann Muller was a sign of how highly rated Diack is in Ulster.
The 22-year-old’s emergence this season has been hugely welcome in Ireland, given that we are not overly stocked in the tighthead prop position. Moore is the exact shape that one might pick as ideal for scrummaging, and his actions on the pitch back that up.
Loves a scrum does Marty. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
Ireland has not produced too many true ‘scrummaging props’, but Moore looks set to buck that trend. The strength he displayed against the Ospreys and Castres earlier this season were impressive, while his skills are as well developed as would be expected of a player of his generation.
Sean O’Brien is irreplaceable, but Murphy’s impact for Leinster recently has softened the blow of losing the Carlow man. Still just 22, Murphy is a hugely powerful player and excels in the contact area. On top of that, his breakdown skills continue to improve, as do his support lines.
Castres couldn’t stop the explosive Murphy. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.
With a large hole in Ireland’s back row for the Six Nations, Murphy will be backing himself to continue his run of recent times and earn inclusion for the opening game against Scotland. A first Heineken Cup try [on his first start] last weekend will have been another confidence boost.
Similarly to the man above, it took the injury of a more high-profile player for Herring to be truly appreciated outside of his own province, and possibly even within it. Another South African native, the 23-year-old stepped up to the hooking mark when Rory Best was out with a fractured arm.
The Ulster hooker has decent footwork for a front row. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.
Dynamic for his relatively light frame, Herring’s work rate rarely wavers for Ulster, while his set-piece strength has grown this season. Having played for Emerging Ireland last summer, the former London Irish man will be eyeing a Wolfhounds spot this month.
Rodney Ah You
Perhaps the most surprising name for many in the latest Ireland squad, Ah You’s inclusion will come as no great shock to Connacht supporters. A World Junior Championship winner with his native New Zealand in 2007 and 2008, he originally joined the western province in the 2010/11 season.
Ah You looks a different player this season. ©INPHO/James Crombie.
Although he has the ability to play on both sides of the front row, Ah You has looked very comfortable at tighthead under the new scrum laws, from where his natural power is effective. The fact that the 25-year-old is clearly fitter this season has helped his ball carrying to stand out more frequently too, and Schmidt has evidently been impressed.
What do you think of the new faces in Ireland’s squad? Will any of them be making their senior debuts next month?