Ireland have named a fairly predictable, if not formidable touring squad for their tour to New Zealand and Australia. However, with key players missing – Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris, Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls and Denis Leamy among them – the door has been left open for some fresh blood to stake their claim.
Despite the injury concerns, Declan Kidney has named a strong Ireland squad for the upcoming acid tests against Australia and New Zealand down under, and some young tyros have been handed a touring place.
Chris Henry of Ulster, who can pack down at 6 or 8, looks to try and fill the gap left behind by his provincial colleague Ferris. Ferris has been a revelation for Ireland over the past 18 months, and would have been in many pundits’ starting XV for the Lions over the summer, but a fractured cheekbone has opened the door for Henry.
The absence of Lion Luke Fitzgerald has also allowed Leinster team mate Fergus McFadden to enter the fray. The young centre is viewed as one of the long term successors to Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, and along with Fitzgerald is seen as the future of Irish centre play. Whether McFadden will get the chance to don the green shirt on this tour remains to be seen, but for the time being, the experience of touring will bring the player on leaps and bounds.
This tour will be a real test of Ireland’s depth, particularly with the news that Paul O’Connell has lost his race to recover from a groin injury that has hampered his season. The side has been making significant progress over the last couple of years, introducing younger talent as the Golden Generation begin to retire, but now that their hand is forced, how will they fare?