Schmidt set to name provisional Six Nations and Wolfhounds squads

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will name his provisional Six Nations and Irish Wolfhounds squads today. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will name his provisional Six Nations and Irish Wolfhounds squads today. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 01:00

Joe Schmidt will today announce a squad of around 42 players both for the 2014 Six Nations and the Irish Wolfhounds’ game against the English Saxons in Gloucester on Saturday week.

Given the size of the squad there oughtn’t to be too many surprises, nor too many hints as to key selections, such as who will fill Seán O’Brien’s boots at inside centre.

The squad will assemble in Ireland’s Carton House base on Sunday evening, following the conclusion of the Heineken Cup pool stages and the 23-man team and replacements to face the English Saxons will be unveiled next Thursday.

Following that game, Schmidt and the Ireland management will finalise a Six Nations squad of around 32 players leading into Ireland’s opening game against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday fortnight, February 2nd, with Wales to come to Dublin six days later.

Regarding the openside position, it is to be expected that the fit-again Tommy O’Donnell and Chris Henry will be named in today’s squad, as might Jordi Murphy, with the position ultimately likely to go to one of the former two.

Compared to last November, when O’Donnell was sidelined, elsewhere in the backrow equation, it would appear that Rhys Ruddock has leapfrogged Kevin McLaughlin in the Leinster pecking order, while Robin Copeland’s impending move to Munster and current form with the Cardiff Blues could have an impact.

There remains a fierce battle to understudy Johnny Sexton. In November Paddy Jackson started against Samoa, but Ian Madigan’s versatility saw him elevated to the bench against Australia and New Zealand.

But with all the contenders liable to be named today there will be no light shed on this matter, like a few others, for a little while more.