Ireland coach Declan Kidney has announced a 39-man squad for the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations Championship which begins for Ireland when they take on France iat Croke Park in just over two weeks’ time.
The squad includes seven uncapped players such as Cian Healy and Ryan Caldwell, with Ulster centre Darren Cave making his first appearance in a senior Ireland squad.
The panel also includes Leinster’s Gordon D’Arcy, who made a welcome return for the province recently following a long term arm injury.
Leo Cullen, Tony Buckley, Neil Best and Roger Wilson were not considered for inclusion in the senior squad due to either injury or suspension.
The squad size is designed to allow the national management to work with a greater number of players for the start of the Championship in the important first week of camp.
The squad size covers for the fact that the overseas-based players will most likely be returning to their clubs on the Wednesday of the first week.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney said: “We want to continue to develop a panel and bringing in 39 players allows to us to work with the players on this basis.
“As well as bringing the players through the systems of the team, it allows for the usual knocks the players might pick up.
“The core group of players who were part of the November squad have maintained their form but it is also pleasing to be able to bring in players who are really developing this season like Darren Cave and Tom Court, as well as more established players who have performed well over the last number of weeks.”
A nine-man ‘A’ team panel of players has also been selected by the Ireland management which includes Ulster’s Ian Humphreys, Leinster back rower Sean O’Brien and Connacht’s Sean Cronin.
This panel will be supplemented by players from the senior panel for the ‘A’ game against the England Saxons, on the eve of the France game, which is being played at Donnybrook Stadium and will be live on RTE TV.
The senior squad for the France game and the squad for the ‘A’ game will be announced at the end of the first week of camp on Friday, January 30. Both teams will be announced on Tuesday, February 3.
Commenting on the ‘A’ panel announced, Kidney said: “The ‘A’ games are important in building our panel and exposing as many players to international level games. Players will benefit from this opportunity and it allows us to track their progress.
“At the same time we will continue to monitor all of the other Irish-qualified players who have been playing consistently well in the Magners League and the European competitions.”
Speaking about the Championship, the Irish coach added: “The Six Nations is one of, if not, the best annual international tournament in the world and a great sporting occasion in Ireland.
“The Guinness Series in November was mission accomplished from a rankings point of view and the win against Argentina, although not the prettiest game anybody may have seen, was vitally important.
“The France game is another step above that as they can bring so much to their game and are incredibly dangerous in this tournament.
“The players’ focus for the first week will be to set the foundations for the tournament and after that, the only focus we will have will be on our opening game against France.”
IRELAND SQUAD – 2009 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP:
Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
Ian Dowling (Shannon – Munster)*
Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College – Leinster)
Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins – Ulster)*
Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne – Leinster)
Keith Earls (Young Munster – Munster)
Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College – Leinster)
Shane Horgan (Boyne – Leinster)
Robert Kearney (UCD – Leinster)
Geordan Murphy (Leicester)
Brian O’Driscoll (UCD – Leinster)
Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution – Munster)
Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin – Munster)
Eoin Reddan (Wasps)
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College – Leinster)*
Peter Stringer (Shannon – Munster)
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena – Ulster)
Paddy Wallace (Ballymena – Ulster)
Rory Best (Banbridge – Ulster)
Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon – Ulster)*
Bob Casey (London Irish)
Tom Court (Malone- Ulster)*
Stephen Ferris (Dungannon – Ulster)
Jerry Flannery (Shannon – Munster)
John Hayes (Bruff- Munster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf – Leinster)*
Jamie Heaslip (Naas – Leinster)
Marcus Horan (Shannon – Munster)
Bernard Jackman (Clontarf – Leinster)
Shane Jennings (St. Mary’s College – Leinster)
Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution – Munster)
Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution – Munster)
Paul O’Connell (Young Munster – Munster)
Mick O’Driscoll (Cork Constitution – Munster)
Malcolm O’Kelly (St. Mary’s College – Leinster)
Alan Quinlan (Shannon – Munster)
Mike Ross (Harlequins)*
Donnacha Ryan (Shannon – Munster)
David Wallace (Garryowen – Munster)
‘A’ TEAM PANEL:
Isaac Boss (Ballymena – Ulster)
Sean Cronin (Buccaneers -Connacht)
Gavin Duffy (Galwegians – Connacht)
Ian Humphreys (Ballymena – Ulster)
Keith Matthews (Buccaneers – Connacht)
John Muldoon (Galwegians – Connacht)
Sean O’Brien (Clontarf – Leinster)
Neil Best (Northampton)
John Andress (Exeter)
N.B. * denotes uncapped player