Declan Kidney and his management team today announced a 32-man squad for the final week of training before Sunday’s Six Nations opener with Wales at the Aviva. Kidney will pick his match day 22 for Sunday from this extended training squad. 23 of last week’s 24-man senior training squad have been retained, with only James Coughlan dropping out.
Dan Tuohy, Simon Zebo, David Kearney, Eoin O’Malley, Brett Wilkinson, Chris Henry, Denis Hurley and Rhys Ruddock have all been promoted from the Wolfhounds squad. Munster’s Peter O’Mahony is the only of last week’s ‘additional players’ included this week.
Here’s a look at the latest squad:
Ireland Training Squad
Forwards (17): Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Tom Court, Brett Wilkinson, Paul O’Connell (capt.), Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Peter O’Mahony, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip, Rhys Ruddock.
Backs (15): Conor Murray, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Ronan O’Gara, Gordon D’Arcy, Paddy Wallace, Fergus McFadden, Eoin O’Malley, Keith Earls, Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, David Kearney, Simon Zebo, Rob Kearney, Denis Hurley.
After the initial burst of criticism aimed at Kidney’s conservatism, this squad actually has a relatively fresh look to it. While it would still be a surprise to see someone like Zebo or O’Mahony actually make the match day squad, it’s encouraging that Kidney has followed through on his assertion that any players who performed well for the Wolfhounds would be considered for the senior side.
If Kidney had originally named this selection as his Six Nations squad, there would have most likely been a positive reaction. That said, there are certainly still areas of the squad that some will disagree with. The inclusion of Donncha O’Callaghan over Mike McCarthy would appear not to be based on form. James Coughlan’s absence might also provoke some dissent.
However, the time for discussions on who should have been included in the squad is now over. This is the pool of players from which Kidney will (or most likely already has) select his match day 22 for Sunday. That announcement will come at lunchtime on Wednesday. Whatever way Kidney goes, it’s going to be a fascinating match with Wales. The anticipation is rapidly building.
Photos courtesy: Ross Wynne.