Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has thrown down the gauntlet to Saturday’s Heineken Cup finalists on the fringes of the Test side to prove they are worth a place on next month’s tour to New Zealand.
Leinster and Ulster square off at Twickenham this weekend in search of European glory with Kidney set to name his touring party for the three-Test series against the world-champion All Blacks on Monday.
With Leinster also set to contest the RaboDirect Pro12 final against Ospreys on May 27, Ireland yesterday announced a 24-man squad comprising of players from Connacht, Munster and Ulster for the pre-tour warm-up match against the Barbarians in Gloucester on May 29 and Kidney included seven uncapped players, four of whom will play for Ulster at Twickenham this weekend.
Tighthead Declan Fitzpatrick, scrum-half Paul Marshall and three-quarters Nevin Spence and Craig Gilroy join Munster hooker Mike Sherry, Connacht prop Ronan Loughney and Munster wing Simon Zebo as the newcomers in a squad also featuring seasoned internationals Ronan O’Gara, Donncha O’Callaghan and Rory Best, with the Leinster contingent set to join the squad in Gloucester at the expense of potentially several players who face the Barbarians.
Kidney said: “The game against the Baa-Baas gives some players the chance to gain match fitness if they have not played for a couple of weeks, allows us to further expose some players to the national set-up and also gives us the opportunity to get some foundations in place for the Test series. We have the majority of our selections decided on for the tour party, but the Heineken final gives us possibly one last opportunity to watch players.”
There are two vacancies in the squad to face the Barbarians, one in the forwards and another in the backs, to be filled next week but Paul O’Connell will not fill the former. The Munster captain has instead been given two weeks to prove his fitness for next month’s tour having suffered an injury to his left knee against Ulster on May 5.
IRELAND SQUAD (v Barbarians): Forwards: R Best (Ulster), T Court (Ulster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), C Henry (Ulster), R Loughney (Connacht), J Muldoon (Connacht), D O’Callaghan (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster), D Ryan (Munster), M Sherry (Munster), D Tuohy (Ulster), A.N.Other. Backs: D Cave (Ulster), K Earls (Munster), C Gilroy (Ulster), P Marshall (Ulster), C Murray (Munster), R O’Gara (Munster), N Spence (Ulster), A Trimble (Ulster), P Wallace (Ulster), S Zebo (Munster), A.N. Other.
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