The Irish management team today announced both the Irish senior squad for the forthcoming 6 Nations and the Irish Wolfhounds squad for a game with the English Saxons in two weekend’s time.
The senior squad includes 24 players, plus an additional 6 players who will join the first week of training. The Wolfhounds squad features 22 players.
First off, here’s a look at the two squads:
Ireland Training Squad
Forwards (13): Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt.), Donnacha Ryan, Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien.
Backs (11): Conor Murray, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Jonathan Sexton, Gordon D’Arcy, Paddy Wallace, Fergus McFadden, Keith Earls, Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Rob Kearney.
Additional Players (6): Ian Nagle, Peter O’Mahony, Tiernan O’Halloran, Paddy McAllister, Andrew Conway, Simon Zebo.
O2 Irish Wolfhounds Squad for match vs. England Saxons (Sat 28th January)
Forwards (12): Stephen Archer, Ronan Loughney, Mike Sherry, Damien Varley, Brett Wilkinson, Mike McCarthy, Devin Toner, Dan Tuohy, Kevin McLaughlin, Chris Henry, John Muldoon, Rhys Ruddock.
Backs (10): Isaac Boss, Tomas O’Leary, Ian Madigan, Ian Keatley, Nevin Spence, Eoin O’Malley, Luke Fitzgerald, David Kearney, Gavin Duffy, Denis Hurley.
Players not considered due to injury
Brian O’Driscoll, David Wallace, Darren Cave, Felix Jones, Jerry Flannery, Eoin Griffin, Denis Leamy, Niall Ronan.
Before we start criticising Declan Kidney’s senior squad for being too conservative, which it clearly is if looked at as a definitive final squad, it’s worth noting that Kidney has emphasised that players in the Wolfhounds squad are still in consideration for his matchday 22 to play Wales. The Wolfhounds take on the Saxons on the 28th of this month, giving those players a final chance to impress ahead of the Wales clash on the 5th of February.
It’s unclear why Kidney did not simply name a 30-man senior squad, instead of marking the 6 young players as “Additional players”. This promising sextet will have just one week of training with the senior squad to impress. Surely if someone like Peter O’Mahony puts himself about to good effect in that week of training he will be considered for a place on the bench against Wales? Why bother to mark these guys as “additional”? He has left himself open to criticism for not blooding younger players that would have been avoided by simply naming those 6 players in the squad.
It may be confusing, but at least Kidney is keeping the door open for the Wolfhounds players. At the squad announcements he said, “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 matchday 22 for the opening game of the Championship.” That will be encouragement enough to ensure that the Wolfhounds game is treated seriously, a final trial of sorts.
So what of the player selections Kidney has made? The fact is that any of the 52 players he and his management have named could be in the squad for the Wales game. Until he names that matchday 22, it’s hard to criticise or praise. But of course, being named in the senior squad is a better indicator that a player will be involved.
In terms of second-rows, Dan Tuohy and Mike McCarthy have been in fantastic form for Ulster and Connacht respectively. Donncha O’Callaghan is named in the senior squad despite slipping behind Donnacha Ryan in the Munster pecking order. Tuohy and McCarthy will feel aggrieved at Kidney’s loyalty in O’Callaghan, especially with the Munster man now 32.
Luke Fitzgerald is one name noticeably missing from the senior squad. However, he hasn’t played in the last two weeks because of slight glute/neck problems. It looks as if he will be given the Wolfhounds match to prove his fitness before being considered for the 6 Nations matchday squad. His form this season demands inclusion. Elsewhere, the form of Ulster’s Paul Marshall and Conor Gilroy has been ignored completely as neither features at all.
It would be fantastic to see younger players like Tiernan O’Halloran and Peter O’Mahony getting a chance in this year’s 6 Nations, even if only off the bench. However, with the squads he has named, the feeling is that Declan Kidney will stick with the tried and trusted.
What do you make of the squad selections? Who do you think deserved to be included or shouldn’t have made the cut? Should Kidney go all out to win this year’s 6 Nations or rather use it as a chance to blood some uncapped players? Comment below with the matchday 22 that you would pick for the Wales match and why…