Schmidt has opted for such a large group so as to cover the requirements of both the Ireland Wolfhounds-England Saxons game at Musgrave Park on Friday next, January 30, and the RBS Six Nations Championship which opens with the visit to Rome on February 7.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the squad is the inclusion after a long period of inactivity through injury of leading players like Sean O’Brien, Cian Healy, Fergus McFadden, Iain Henderson, Marty Moore, Rhys Ruddock, Keith Earls, Dave Kearney and Jonny Sexton. Some of these players, most notably Sexton and also O’Brien, Healy, Henderson and Ruddock, are unlikely to be considered for the Italian game before hopefully becoming available for the clash with France at the Aviva Stadium on February 14.
On the debit side, several others are staying with their provinces to continue rehabilitation from various knocks. They include Munster’s Rob Copeland and David Kilcoyne; Luke Marshall and Andrew Trimble of Ulster and Leinster flanker Dominic Ryan.
Schmidt doesn’t foresee any likelihood of seeing Ulster quartet Chris Henry, Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding and Dan Tuohy any time soon. While there are no obvious omissions from the squad, Tadhg Furlong, the promising Leinster tight head prop from Wexford, and Andrew Conway and Duncan Casey, who have enjoyed a good season on the wing and at hooker for Munster, have grounds for a reasonable degree of disappointment.
M Bent (Leinster), R Best (Banbridge/Ulster), J Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster),* S Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), J Cronin (Dolphin/Munster) R Diack (Malone/Ulster) D Foley (UL Bohemians/Munster) C Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), J Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster), I Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), R Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster), M McCarthy (Leinster), J McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), M Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster), J Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster), S O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), P O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), T O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), P O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), M Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), R Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster), D Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster), R Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), D Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), N White (Galwegians/Connacht).*
I Boss (Terenure/Leinster), T Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), D Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), G D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), K Earls (Young Munster/Munster), L Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster), C Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster), R Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht), F Jones (Shannon/Munster), D Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster), R Kearney (UCD/Leinster), I Keatley (Young Munster/Munster), I Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), K Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht), F McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), C Murray (Garryowen/Munster), J Payne (Ulster), E Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), N Reid (Clontarf/Leinster), J Sexton (Racing Metro 92), S Zebo (Cork Con/Munster).
*Denotes uncapped player