Munster out-half Keatley’s place on the 37-man list came just three days after his game-winning drop kick for Munster in their opening Champions Cup game away to Sale, and marks another significant upturn in his fortunes.
Keatley wasn’t included in Schmidt’s first panel this time last year. Nor did he feature in the Six Nations (though he was part of the preliminary 44-man roster) or in the team’s two-man trip to Argentina during the summer.
Jackson was called up for of all those get-togethers. He was preferred to Ian Madigan as back-up to Jonathan Sexton for South America before getting injured and has played nine times for Ireland. Three were Six Nations starts. In that light, Schmidt’s preference for Keatley is a major call.
In all, there were 15 men whose names were included for the Guinness Series 12 months ago but who are absent this time.
Most are due to injuries — 15 were listed as unavailable yesterday — while Brian O’Driscoll has retired. Others — Isaac Boss and James Coughlan among them — have fallen down the pecking order while other notable exclusions include Munster No. 8 Robin Copeland and Ulster centre Darren Cave.
Cave’s Ulster team-mate Jared Payne is included for the first time in an Irish squad and will surely be tried at 13. His presence brings to five the number of naturalised southern hemisphere players in camp.
Payne is also among a quintet of uncapped men to get the nod. Connacht full-back Darragh Leader, Kiwi-born tighthead Nathan White, Munster lock Dave Foley and Leinster flanker Dominic Ryan are the others.
Meanwhile, Leinster scrum doctor Marco Caputo believes the province’s former head coach and fellow Australian, Michael Cheika, remains the man to put the crisis-hit Wallabies back on track.
Cheika’s appointment was expected yesterday after the resignation of Ewen Mackenzie, but the process hit a snag with reports suggesting issues over the make-up of his support staff.
“With the situation Australian rugby finds itself in with regard to player behaviour and that sort of stuff, he’s probably the person they need at the moment,” said Caputo, who almost joined Cheika’s staff at the Waratahs before Leinster.
“They need a strong leader, a strong voice and somebody to rattle the cage a little to get them back on track.”
Cheika’s succession could have a knock-on effect on his old province if he relaxes his union’s eligibility rules on overseas players, and calls up Leinster’s second row Kane Douglas.
“I’m pretty sure Michael’s going to have those conversations with the ARU around player availability,” said Caputo.
“At the same time, they’ve got to protect their assets and don’t open up a free market. If they do, they could have a real problem on their hands.
“We don’t have the player pool the South Africans, the Kiwis have, so we have to be careful, but I’m sure Michael will explore a special circumstances clause there somewhere, specifically for the World Cup.”