Best to captain squad in North America as Les Kiss will remain on board with Ireland
Interim manager agrees three-year contract to work with Joe Schmidt while squad includes seven uncapped players
Les Kiss, Ireland’s interim head coach, will be part of Joe Schmidt’s management team on a three year contract.
“Very happy to be involved going forward,” said Kiss at yesterday’s announcement of a 28-man squad to tour North America with Test matches against the US Eagles in Houston on June 8th and Canada in Toronto on June 15th
A forwards expert and other technical coaches will be recruited later this summer. In the meantime, Schmidt will join the squad a few days before the US game, after attending a Six Nations conference in Rome, with Kiss supported by Anthony Foley, Gert Smal and former Ulster scrumhalf Neil Doak.
Sport is cyclical. In 2000 an Ireland squad embarked on a two match tour of North America with a raft of young talent that created a dynasty, yielding four triple crowns and a Grand Slam from 2004 to 2009, making it the most successful period in Irish rugby history.
It has been evident since November that there are new caretakers of the green jersey, with the new breed being led by Rory Best in the absence of Lions tourists Jamie Heaslip, Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell.
Notable absentees from the squad are Donnacha Ryan (shoulder), Craig Gilroy (groin) and Luke Marshall (concussion) – all frontline Test performers this season, while Seán Cronin has been demoted to the Emerging Ireland squad that plays three games in the Tbilisi Cup against hosts Georgia (June 7th), a South Africa President’s XV (June 11th) and Uruguay (June 16th).
“The Luke Marshall decision was called some time ago, just [to give him] time off [to recover]. Craig has been managing his groin, he could play and train but it was thought that in the context of this tour it was an opportunity to get it completely right. By no means was he ruled out through injury.
“There are bigger challenges ahead,” Kiss added, a clear reference to November visits to Dublin from Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.
“But if you called Donnacha he would play in your team tomorrow. Everyone plays with injuries but there was an opportunity for Donnacha to work on a few things and get in some recovery processes.”
Kiss went on to say Devin Toner’s recent form for Leinster has been “fantastic”.
Munster bound winger Andrew Conway is one of 26 selected for Allen Clarke’s Emerging squad after his recent glut of tries, while Leicester Tigers winger cum fullback Niall Morris is the only exile of 54 players named. Rhys Ruddock captains the Georgian expedition with the bolter being former St Michael’s outhalf Cathal Marsh.
Held his ground
“Young Cathal Marsh did an exceptional job the other night in the B&I Cup final,” Kiss explained. “I spoke to Girvan Dempsey and Newcastle targeted him but he held his ground and played a big part in the victory.”
Players not considered for the main tour due to Ireland’s injury cursed year are Stephen Ferris (ankle), Eoin Reddan (leg), Luke Fitzgerald (knee), Gordon D’Arcy (calf), Marshall, David McSharry (groin), Keith Earls (shoulder) and Stephen Archer, unlucky to sustain a wrist fracture after being capped against Italy.
Ulster’s Stuart Olding and Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw are cruelly snatched away from Mike Ruddock’s Ireland under-20s backline, also preparing for next month’s Junior World Cup in France. Both players have enormous potential with Henshaw expected to feature at outside centre as Darren Cave is the only established 13 in the squad, although Fergus McFadden will have something to say about that.
The 2000 tour of North America saw Grand Slam winners Geordan Murphy and Marcus Horan becoming two of five new caps. This time there are six with London Irish bound tighthead Jamie Hagan, Munster openside Tommy O’Donnell, Mike Sherry, Kieran Marmion, Olding and Henshaw all rewarded for outstanding seasons at provincial level.
Ronan O’Gara retired the other day, as did Horan and Murphy. Talented kids aplenty, this feels like the start of something.
Ireland Squad (North American Tour - USA & Canada)
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Tom Court (Ulster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jamie Hagan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)*, Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Chris Henry (Malone/Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht)*, Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster), David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Galwegians/Connacht)*, Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)*, Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (St. Marys/Leinster), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster)*, Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)*, Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster, Vice-captain), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Mike Sherry (Garryowen/Munster)*, Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), Devin Toner(Lansdowne/Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Emerging Ireland squad (Tblisi Cup, Georgia)
Michael Allen (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)*, Michael Bent (Leinster), Andrew Conway (Blackrock/Leinster)*, John Cooney (Lansdowne/Leinster)*, Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s/Leinster), David Foley (UL Bohemian/Munster)*, Eoin Griffin (Galwegians/Connacht)*, Cathal Marsh (Trinity College/Leinster)*, Michael Heaney (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)*, Robert Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster)*, David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster)*, Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster), Richard Lutton (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)*, Brendan Macken (Blackrock/Leinster)*, Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s/Leinster)*, Eoin McKeon (Galwegians/Connacht)*, Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster)*, Niall Morris (Leicester/Exiles)*, Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster)*, Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution/Munster)*, Robbie Diack (Ulster)*, Tiernan O’Halloran (Galwegians/Connacht)*, Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster)*, John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster)*, Lewis Stevenson (Malone/Ulster)*
* denotes uncapped player