Declan Kidney has surprisingly left the in-form Leinster winger Luke Fitzgerald out of the Ireland squad for the Six Nations tournament.
It had been expected that Fitzgerald would be included in the 24-man squad after recovering from the disappointment of missing out on last year’s World Cup to emerge as a leading candidate to replace the injured Brian O’Driscoll at outside centre.
He has had to settle for a place in the Irish Wolfhounds squad although he has been told by Kidney that anyone who impresses in their game against England Saxons on 28th January could still earn a call-up for Ireland’s first Six Nations game against Wales at the Aviva Stadium. Those looking at the best online Six Nations betting should bear this in mind.
“The Wolfhounds game gives myself and the other coaches one final chance to give games to players to see possible options before we settle on our match-day 22 for the opening game,” said Kidney.
Leo Cullen has been included in the squad even though it has been confirmed that he will undergo an operation on his Achilles in Sweden next week that will keep him sidelined for six weeks.
O’Driscoll will miss the entire Six Nations after undergoing shoulder surgery, and it now seems that Keith Earls, Tommy Bowe or Fergus McFadden will stand in for him.
Geordan Murphy is not included in the squad, but earlier this month said that he would make himself available in the event of an injury crisis.
Six uncapped players – Ian Nagle, Peter O’Mahony, Tiernan O’Halloran, Paddy McAllister, Andrew Conway and Simon Zebo – will take part in next week’s training camp in Limerick.
As well as O’Driscoll, Denis Leamy, Darren Cave, David Wallace, Felix Jones, Jerry Flannery, Eoin Griffen and Niall Ronan were not considered by Kidney for the senior squad due to injury.