Sean Cronin’s future as a Test hooker seemed limited after a disappointing tour to Australia but a strong November has him back in favour and instead it is Ulster’s Rob Herring who misses out.
“Rob Herring is very unlucky as his performances for the National team have been first rate.”
As you were here but Connacht tighthead Finlay Bealham loses his place after inclusion last November.
“Finlay Bealham was very close, as was Marty Moore, who is getting back to the form that saw him win 10 caps in the past and Stephen Archer was at his combative best in Gloucester at the weekend. Denis Buckley has done well for Connacht and the promising young looseheads Ed Byrne and Eric O’Sullivan have continued to impress.”
Ultan Dillane’s (below) recall having won the most recent of his 11 caps against Fiji in November 2017, comes at the expense of Connacht team-mate Quinn Roux.
“Quinn Roux was very close to selection, which has become highly competitive with youngsters Gav Thornbury, Fineen Wycherley and Kieran Treadwell all impressing of late along with the experienced Billy Holland.”
With Peter O’Mahony named despite a rib injury suffered last weekend, Ireland’s formidable back-row resources are missing only Dan Leavy, who could return later in the Six Nations.
“Sean Reidy continues to be all action for Ulster and Tommy O’Donnell is starting to get back to top form as well after his recent return from injury.”
Ireland’s problem area, despite the return of Conor Murray, with Luke McGrath ruled out, Kieran Marmion nearing the end of his ankle surgery rehab and John Cooney nursing a back spasm but named in the squad. It means a call-up for uncapped Caolin Blade.
“It’s a great opportunity for Caolin Blade to get into camp and compete for a spot.”
Connacht’s Jack Carty gets a shot at a first Test cap, selected ahead of Leinster’s Ross Byrne while world player of the year Johnny Sexton is on track to recover from a knee injury.
“Ross Byrne is unlucky in an incredibly tight call. He is still definitely in our thinking and will continue to press for inclusion through the Six Nations and beyond, while Billy Burns has also fitted in really well for Ulster this season.”
Robbie Henshaw is back sooner than expected from a hamstring injury sustained in November and Chris Farrell is fit again after a year blighted by knee and thigh injuries, while there is first call-up for Connacht’s outside centre Tom Farrell. That means a cruel blow for Munster’s in-form inside centre Rory Scannell, also overlooked last November, and Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey.
Congratulations to Jack Carty, Caolin Blade & Tom Farrell - 3 uncapped players named in the Ireland Squad.— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) January 16, 2019
Joe Schmidt - "It’s a great opportunity for Caolin Blade to get into camp and compete for a spot."#TeamOfUs #Ireland #ShoulderToShoulder #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/jwS2xXPNe7
Rory Scannell… was great for Munster last Friday, and Stu McCloskey... continues to give Ulster gain line as well as defensive solidity. We’re sure that Sam Arnold and Rory O’Loughlin will continue to improve and both have plenty of promise.”
Schmidt retains his five quality options in Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, and Jacob Stockdale.
“Adam Byrne and Dave Kearney were both very good against Toulouse. The Connacht outside backs have been consistently good, Mike Haley is growing into his role with Munster while we look forward to a fit again Darren Sweetnam gaining some game minutes over the coming weeks.”