Wolfhounds have a few senior strays trying to return to the main pack
Carton House is a sedate sort of place to hang out for an afternoon. But for a squad of 23 trying to break into a starting 15 for Ireland’s first Six Nations match against Wales, the glory of the building and its opulent surrounds would not have tempered player anxieties.
Attack coach Les Kiss was asked why Andrew Trimble with his 49 international caps was included in yesterday’s shadow Ireland squad. The question may not have been articulately put but the point was what it was they needed to see in the Ulster player that they have not seen already. And what are all the players actually playing for aside from a win over the England Saxons?
While Luke Fitzgerald and his 23 caps is returning from injury, the same question could have been asked of Isaac Boss with 15 caps or Tom Court with 29 caps, both in yesterday’s Wolfhounds squad to face the Saxons in Galway on Friday.
Is Trimble or Fitzgerald really there to displace three-try Simon Zebo or Fergus McFadden and is there any fullback to bump Rob Kearney off the starting team? Will Ian Keatley, Ian Madigan or Paddy Jackson oust Jonathan Sexton and who will move Jamie Heaslip?
Kearney and O’Driscoll
The question of playing Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll against the Saxons wasn’t even broached by Irish management. They are, injury aside, secure like pretty much all of the other front-line players not named in yesterday’s squad. Kiss answered the question on Trimble, getting to the point at the end.
“Specifically talking about Trimby, he’s done really well recently,” said the attack coach. “It’s not a demotion as such, just an opportunity for him to come in and perform there and put himself in the shop window.”
Kiss continued to expand the idea that a good run against Saxons would be tantamount to making claim for a place against Wales and while everyone saw merit and truth in what he said few could fathom where the starting places would come from. The bench perhaps is an accommodation point as the players not involved on Friday add up to a pretty effective Ireland side for Wales the following week.
“It’s an opportunity for guys to put their hand up,” emphasised Kiss. “Anyone who is in that squad is going to be considered for the Welsh squad the next week. So we may have 30-32 depending on issues around that. Anyone can force themselves into that squad but also force themselves into the team.” The team? “Well not so much force as we haven’t even selected a team for Wales yet.”
With Kearney and O’Driscoll, there was no reason to risk injury for the sake of one more match. It would perhaps shave off another thin layer of rust but at the expense of possible injury, it would have been an extravagant gesture to Irish player depth that is not there. It was a ‘no brainer’. “It was never in the forefront of thinking,” said Kiss.
“There certainly was an opportunity if the game time didn’t come through on the menu a bit more but they are both seasoned. They are both comfortable with where they are and we didn’t even broach the question with them really. It was a just a case of them being here preparing with us.”
What is open to the players is the chance to impress at a higher level. While Trimble and Fitzgerald have done it a significant rump has not, whether it’s Connacht back Rob Henshaw or Ulster scrumhalf Paul Marshall, two of the nine players selected not yet capped at full international level.
In Iain Henderson, a talent in waiting and now considered a flanker by Ireland more than a secondrow, as well as Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne, there is still a fair bit for Declan Kidney to cast his eye over. Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell and Connacht centre Dave McSharry are also included in an eclectic mix of experience.
There were no new injuries over the weekend and while some players sat out the training including Zebo, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Donnacha Ryan they are not considered a concern.
Ireland Wolfhounds 23-man squad
v England Saxons, Sportsground, Galway, Friday, 7.45pm.
Michael Bent (Leinster), Isaac Boss (Leinster), Darren Cave (Ulster), James Coughlan (Munster), Tom Court (Ulster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Ian Keatley (Munster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Paul Marshall (Ulster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Dave McSharry (Connacht), Tommy O’Donnell (Munster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Mike Sherry (Munster), Lewis Stevenson (Ulster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Damien Varley (Munster).