Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has named a 30-man squad for the 2006 summer tour to New Zealand and Australia.
The squad has some new faces at international level, but there are four notable absentees from the tour party due to injury. These include Malcolm O'Kelly, Simon Easterby, Johnny O'Connor and Eoin Reddan. O'Kelly is suffering from an ongoing groin injury that may require surgery during the summer and both Easterby and O'Connor have not played since suffering injuries during the Powergen Cup Final last month. Wasps scrum half Reddan is also suffering from a niggling groin injury.
O'Sullivan said: "I would have preferred to be dealing from a full deck for the tour, but the absences leave the door open for the players coming into the squad. Both Malcolm and Simon are world class lineout operators and the tour also represented a chance for Johnny and Eoin to stake their claims for a starting berth, so they will all be missed."
...The consistent form of Ulster scrum half Isaac Boss has earned him a call up to the Ireland squad...
In the backs, the new additions to the squad include the uncapped Ulster scrum half Isaac Boss. The New Zealander-born Boss has been in good form for the Celtic League table toppers and was selected for the Ireland 'A' side to play England in March, but had to pull out due to injury. O'Sullivan said: "Isaac Boss has been turning in consistent displays for Ulsters over the last six months and we felt that he deserved an opportunity with the senior squad during the summer to give us more options in that position."
Gavin Duffy returns to the senior squad for the first time since June of last year when he won his last cap against Japan, playing at outside centre in both Tests in Osaka and Tokyo. Duffy is joined by Wasps out-half Jeremy Staunton, who also won his last cap on the 2005 summer tour to Japan. Leinster winger Denis Hickie, who was part of the Six Nations squad after returning from serious injury, claims a place in the tour party as reward for his good form in the Celtic League and Heineken Cup. John Kelly is also rewarded for his performances for Munster with a place in the squad.
...Ulster and Ireland 'A' prop Bryan Young "has a chance to prove himself at the very highest level"...
The forwards also see the inclusion of an uncapped Ulster player in the shape of prop Bryan Young, who is promoted from the Ireland 'A' side. Both Ulster and Munster make up the entire front row selections for the tour, with Young the only uncapped member. O'Sullivan commented: "Bryan has been a key performer for his province along with the rest of the Ulster front row and now has a chance to prove himself at the very highest level."
Munster number eight and captain Anthony Foley claims a spot as one of six back rows in the squad, as does Leinster openside Keith Gleeson, who won his last cap against Italy in 2004. With the 80-times capped O'Kelly missing through injury, Leo Cullen of Leicester comes into the tour party. There is one final back row spot being left open to allow Munster's Alan Quinlan more time to gain match practice in advance of the tour. A decision on the final place will be made following the last round of the Celtic League.
Overall, O'Sullivan is expecting a hard tour. The Corkman admitted: "Any tour to the Southern Hemisphere is tough and with two Tests in New Zealand and one in Australia, this will be no exception.
"As proved by the Lions tour last year, the intensity of the game in the Southern Hemisphere is incredibly high and something we will have to prepare ourselves for. Coupled with the fact that we will be playing two of the top teams in the world, the tour will be a huge challenge."
The 2006 Ireland Squad to tour New Zealand and Australia is as follows:
Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster) 0
Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 8
Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster) 20
Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College/Leinster) 63
Gavin Duffy (Harlequins) 4
Denis Hickie (St. Mary's College/Leinster) 51
Shane Horgan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 45
John Kelly (Cork Constitution/Munster) 17
Geordan Murphy (Leicester) 39
Brian O'Driscoll (Blackrock College/Leinster) (Captain) 64
Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster) 60
Jeremy Staunton (Wasps) 3
Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster) 66
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster) 6
Neil Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 2
Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 3
Simon Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 12
Leo Cullen (Leicester) 18
Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster) 6
Anthony Foley (Shannon/Munster) 62
Keith Gleeson (St. Mary's College/Leinster) 23
John Hayes (Bruff/Munster) 62
Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster) 37
Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster) 11
Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 24
Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster) 33
Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster) 4
David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster) 27
Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster) 0
Not Considered Due To Injury:
Simon Easterby, Johnny O'Connor, Malcolm O'Kelly, Eoin Reddan
NB: A.N. Other to be announced after the final round of the Celtic League
Eddie O'Sullivan (Coach)
Niall O'Donovan (Forwards Coach)
Gerard Carmody (Manager)
Graham Steadman (Defence Coach)
Mervyn Murphy (Video Analyst)
Mark Tainton (Kicking Coach)
Brian McLaughlin (Skills Coach)
Mike McGurn (Fitness & Conditioning Coach)
Gary O'Driscoll (Doctor)
Cameron Steele (Physiotherapist)
Brian Green (Athletic Trainer/Physiotherapist)
Willie Bennett (Masseur)
Paddy O'Reilly (Baggagemaster)
Karl Richardson (Communications and Media Manager)