DECLAN KIDNEY HAS given his strongest indication yet of the players likely to feature in Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Wales on 5 February.
The Ireland coach announced a 24-man senior squad for Ireland’s pre-tournament training camp this morning, as well as his panel for the Ireland Wolfhounds’ game against the England Saxons on 28 January.
Leinster skipper Leo Cullen has been included in Kidney’s plans for now, despite reports this morning that he could miss the entire Six Nations to undergo surgery on an ankle injury.
Isaac Boss, Tomas O’Leary and Luke Fitzgerald still have work to do if they are to force their way into Kidney’s matchday plans. The trio, who have 60 international caps between them, have been included in the 22-man Wolfhound squad, which Kidney promises to watch closely before deciding on his final squad for matchday one.
“The Wolfhounds game gives myself and the other coaches one final chance to give games to players to see possible options before we settle on our match day 22 for the opening game,” Kidney said at this morning’s announcement.
It also gives us the opportunity to have a closer look in training at some of the younger players, rather than bringing in more experienced players, who are very much still in the frame for selection.
Six others — Munster trio Peter O’Mahony, Simon Zebo and Ian Nagle, Leinster’s Andrew Conway, Ulster prop Paddy McAllister and Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran — have been invited to join the senior squad for the first week of the training camp in Limerick.
“There have been some strong performances by players with the Provinces going really well,” Kidney said. “It always gives the squad a good boost when we have teams with players playing well in Europe before we step back up into the international scene.”
Ireland Training Squad: Rory Best, Tommy Bowe, Tom Court, Sean Cronin, Leo Cullen, Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls, Stephen Ferris, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Shane Jennings, Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Conor Murray, Sean O’Brien, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara, Eoin Reddan, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace.
Additional Players: Ian Nagle, Peter O’Mahony, Tiernan O’Halloran, Paddy McAllister, Andrew Conway, Simon Zebo.
Ireland Wolfhounds: Stephen Archer, Isaac Boss, Gavin Duffy, Luke Fitzgerald, Chris Henry, Denis Hurley, David Kearney, Ian Keatley, Ronan Loughney, Ian Madigan, Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, John Muldoon, Tomas O’Leary, Eoin O’Malley, Rhys Ruddock, Mike Sherry, Nevin Spence, Devin Toner, Dan Touhy, Damien Varley, Brett Wilkinson.