DECLAN KIDNEY WAS not scheduled to make the Ireland Wolfhounds announcement today but he would not be denied from naming a team brimming with future stars of our game.
The schedule called for an assistant coach, most likely Anthony Foley, to name the team to face the Saxons but Kidney, back yesterday evening from the Six Nations launch in London, fronted the announcement.
It would be hard to blame him – the Wolfhounds team offers a glimpse of rugby players that will hope to represent their country at the World Cup in two year’s time.
It is not the greenest batch of players ever to take the field in the ‘A’ team cause but eight of the starting XV are aged 26 and under. James Coughlan, 32, is the only player in his thirties.
The names that Kidney and his management team will watch with great interest include Robbie Henshaw, 19, Dave McSharry, 22, Paddy Jackson, 21, and Dave Kilcoyne, 24.
Gaps in the market
Kidney intimated that Henshaw may be sent to play with Mike Ruddock’s Under-20s in February and March but he is a genuine talent at fullback and can expect inclusion on the summer tour to North America.
Gordon D’Arcy is enjoying the umpteenth second-wind of his career and, thankfully for club and country, has rediscovered the tryline of late. Nonetheless, with Luke Marshall out injured, it will be interesting to see if McSharry can make a meaningful contribution at inside centre.
Ronan O’Gara will tell anyone who is willing to listen that he is not retiring any time soon. He may still be the safe option off the bench, for Jonathan Sexton, but Jackson has shown both craft and match-winning maturity for Ulster this season.
Paddy Jackson will be joined in the half-back line by Ulster teammate Paul Marshall. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
It only takes a handful of positive outings in the front row for an Irish prop to be declared the saving balm to Irish woes but Kilcoyne, blooming in his mid 20′s, has been excellent for Munster [especially at home] in the past two months.
His selection ahead of Tom Court for the Wolfhounds suggests he will play back-up to Cian Healy for the Wales game.
Kidney has named Iain Henderson, 21, on the bench but spoke today of the positive impact he has made as a replacement for province and country this season. He can expect a promotion to the Six Nations squad.
The only disappointment, personally speaking, is the fact that Ian Madigan, a versatile and tenacious player, could not be accommodated in youthful backline.