The Ireland coaching staff have announced an extended squad of 44 players for the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations Championships and the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds fixture against England Saxons.
Head Coach Joe Schmidt, explained, “As always a number of the selections were very tight. Following on from the Guinness Series, there is an experienced core of players in the squad who will offer continuity, as well as some new additions who have been selected with an eye to the future.
With Robin Copeland returning to play in Ireland next season it will be an opportunity for him to impress during the training week, while some of the younger or less experienced players such as Rob Herring, Iain Henderson, Rhys Ruddock, Kieran Marmion and Felix Jones have turned in some very positive performances to earn spots in the squad.”
A number of players currently injured or returning from injury will remain with their provinces to gain further recovery time or game time. They include Richardt Strauss, Donnacha Ryan, Roger Wilson, Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo, Declan Fitzpatrick and Craig Gilroy. Some of these players may yet return for RBS 6 Nations test matches.
There is also the injured group of Sean O’Brien, Stephen Ferris, Mike Sherry and Stuart Olding who will be unavailable in the longer term.
Ireland’s opening fixture of the 6 Nations is against Scotland in the Aviva Stadium on Sunday 2nd February. Reigning champions Wales visit Dublin six days later and Ireland then travel to Twickenham to face England on the 22nd February.
Ireland’s final home game of the Championships is against Italy on 14th March before the team travels to Paris to take on Saint-Andre’s French side on the 15th March. Ireland’s three home games in the Aviva Stadium are sold out.
The O2 Ireland Wolfhounds will play England Saxons in Kingsholm, Gloucester on Saturday 25th January with a mixture of youth and experience likely to make up the squad selected for this match.
IRELAND Extended 2014 RBS 6 Nations Squad
Rodney Ah You (Buccaneers/Connacht)*
Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)
Robin Copeland (Cardiff Blues)*
Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Robbie Diack (Malone/Ulster)*
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster)
Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Chris Henry (Malone/Ulster)
Rob Herring (Ballinahinch/Ulster)*
David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Mike McCarthy (Leinster)
Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster)*
Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster)*
Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster)
Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster)
Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster)
Damian Varley (Garryowen/Munster)
Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster)
Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster)
Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster)
David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster)
Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)*
Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)
Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster)
Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro 92)
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images