The countdown begins: Kidney announces pre-season training squad
43 players have been named in an Irish squad that will gather for the first of three scheduled training camps ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Long-term injury victims Jerry Flannery, Rob Kearney, Stephen Ferris and Geordan Murphy have been named in a squad in which there are no omissions that will cause a major surprise given the volume of players involved.
The squad also includes four uncapped players who will be given a chance to impress: exciting Munster duo Felix Jones and Conor Murray and Connacht pair Mike McCarthy and Brett Wilkinson.
Shane Jennings and Tony Buckley have both been included despite arm and shoulder injuries respectively, but both are expected to recover in time to begin the conditioning programmes designed to have the Irish lads in peak condition ahead of the tournament in New Zealand and not heavy legged like they were in France four years ago.
Shane Horgan, Ian Humphries and Nevin Spence were not included on the basis that all three are due to undergo surgery on long-term injuries this summer.
None of the three players will be considered for the five warm up games in August, against France (twice), England, Scotland and a Connacht selection, which places their participation in the tournament itself in major doubt.
Commenting on the announcement, Ireland coach Declan Kidney said: “This is the first step in preparation for the Rugby World Cup and the group called into our first camp shows that there is competition for places right across the board.
"There are players who we have identified as part of the larger Rugby World Cup squad who will not be in the first camp and will be based with their provincial and club fitness staff, but that may change as we go through June and July, so none of that larger group are necessarily out of contention for the final squad”.
“The aim three years ago was to deepen the strength of the squad and there are a number of players that have come through in that time either playing with their provinces or with the Wolfhounds and the Ireland team. There are big challenges ahead for the group with the coming preseason and then five games in August”.
Ireland pre-season training squad:
Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster)
Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht)
Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster)
Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster)
Robert Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Geordan Murphy (Leicester)
Conor Murray (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster)
Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Tomas O'Leary (Dolphin/Munster)
Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jonathan Sexton (St.Mary’s College/Leinster)
Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster)
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster)
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)
Tony Buckley (Sale Sharks)
Tom Court (Malone/Ulster)
Sean Cronin (Leinster)
Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster)
Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
John Hayes (Bruff/Munster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster)
Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster)
Shane Jennings (St.Mary’s College/Leinster)
Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Kevin McLaughlin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Sean O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)
Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster)
Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Michael Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster)
David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster)
Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht)
Not considered due to injury:
Shane Horgan (Boyne/Leinster) – Knee
Ian Humphries (Ballymena/Ulster) – Shoulder
Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster) – shoulder