Ireland opt for Heaslip & 6 newbies

Ireland have named six uncapped players and kept Jamie Heaslip as captain for next month's Six Nations campaign. [more]

Ireland opt for Heaslip & 6 newbies

Ireland have named six uncapped players and kept Jamie Heaslip as captain for next month’s Six Nations campaign.

The decision to stick with Heaslip as skipper means that Lions legend Brian O’Driscoll has been overlooked for the role despite being available for selection.

Heaslip took over the captaincy in the absence of both O’Driscoll and Lions leader Paul O’Connell during the autumn and has now been handed the role on a permanent basis.

"Jamie had done a really good job for the squad and management during November and I felt that now was the correct time to do this," said Kidney, who named a 39-man squad this morning.

"Brian has had very little rugby in the last number of months and I think he deserves the space and time to concentrate on getting himself back playing fully fit.

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"We need Brian the player just as much as we need Brian the captain and typical of the man and the selfless way he has contributed to Irish Rugby and the Ireland team, he has said that the captain and the team would have his full support."

Leinster utility back Ian Madigan and Connacht duo Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry join Ulster halfbacks Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson and second row Lewis Stevenson as the potential debutants among the party.

There is no place for Lions trio O’Connell, Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris who are all currently injured, while Connacht flanker John Muldoon and Ulster pair Luke Marshall and Dan Tuohy miss out for the same reason.

The squad also covers the players who will be involved for the Ireland Wolfhounds fixture against England Saxons in Galway on January 25, with O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald all in line for game time due to their recent injury problems.

Kidney intends to add to his squad, particularly in the back row, after this weekend’s Heineken Cup matches, and he and his senior coaching team will take charge of the Wolfhounds as well in order to ensure the squad as a whole gets the best possible preparation for the Six Nations opener with Wales in Cardiff on February 2.

"Our priority is the Wales game, but there is an opportunity in the Wolfhounds match for some of the players as we head into the Six Nations," added Kidney, who also confirmed that Munster assistant coach Anthony Foley and Leinster's Greg Feek will be part of the backroom team for the Wolfhounds game and the Six Nations.

"While the majority of our focus is on the preparations for the Wales game, the coaching staff felt it made sense to have time with the wider group of players and also to have two fully fit teams on the field ready to train after what is usually an attritional end to the group stages in Europe.

"There are quite a few players who have been out injured and could be lacking game time, so this will be the ideal chance for them and the newer members in the squad to challenge for places in the senior team.

"After the Wolfhounds game we will be able to name a smaller squad which will train together and prepare for the Wales game."

Ireland Squad (province/international caps)

Michael Bent (Leinster/2)
Rory Best (Ulster/62)
Isaac Boss (Leinster/15)
Darren Cave (Ulster/3)
Tom Court (Ulster/29)
Sean Cronin (Leinster/23)
Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster/71)
Keith Earls (Munster/34)
Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster/23)
Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster/2)
Craig Gilroy (Ulster/1)
Cian Healy (Leinster/35)
Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/52) Captain
Iain Henderson (Ulster/2)
Chris Henry (Ulster/4)
Robbie Henshaw (Connacht)*
Paddy Jackson (Ulster)*
Rob Kearney (Leinster/41)
David Kilcoyne (Munster/2)
Ian Madigan (Leinster)*
Paul Marshall (Ulster)*
Conor Murray (Munster/14)
Mike McCarthy (Connacht/6)
Fergus McFadden (Leinster/16)
Dave McSharry (Connacht)*
Sean O'Brien (Leinster/22)
Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster/91)
Brian O'Driscoll (120)
Ronan O'Gara (Munster/126)
Peter O'Mahony (Munster/9)
Eoin Reddan (Leinster/47)
Mike Ross (Leinster/24)
Donnacha Ryan (Munster/23)
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/34)
Lewis Stevenson (Ulster)*
Richardt Strauss (Leinster/2)
Devin Toner (Leinster/3)
Andrew Trimble (Ulster/49)
Simon Zebo (Munster/3)

N.B. *denotes uncapped player

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