Joe Schmidt rewards form as Paddy Jackson is jettisoned for Ian Keatley

Jared Payne among five uncapped players called up by Joe Schmidt for autumn Tests

 

As ever with the announcement of enlarged squads, the most notable decisions involve those who were not included and, in that context, the omission of Paddy Jackson from the 37-man Irish panel for the forthcoming Guinness Series appears the most pointed.

The 22-year-old has been in Joe Schmidt’s three previous squad announcements – the Guinness Series of a year ago, the victorious Six Nations campaign, and the Argentine tour – and had won five of his nine caps under the Kiwi. He had also been working until just over a week ago with Irish defensive coach Les Kiss in his capacity as the Ulster interim director of rugby.

But with Ian Keatley showing improved form and Ian Madigan displaying form and versatility, Jackson misses out.

Keatley has forced his way into the squad on the back of some good form over the last few weeks, notably in Munster’s win over Leinster at the RDS and at the weekend when his last-minute drop goal away to Sale stole a crucial victory for Anthony Foley’s side.

The Munster outhalf, who won his two caps in May 2009, away to Canada and the USA, was included in an enlarged 44-man squad for last season’s Six Nations and the Wolfhounds game against the English Saxons, but missed out on the autumn Tests a year ago and last summer’s tour.

Naturalised Kiwi

Five uncapped players are named in the squad, namely the now naturalised Kiwi duo of Ulster centre-cum-fullback Jared Payne and Connacht tighthead Nathan White, as well as Munster lock Dave Foley, Leinster openside Dominic Ryan and Connacht fullback Darragh Leader.

In addition to the injured absentees, the Ulster duo of Darren Cave and Rob Herring, like Jackson, miss out, having also travelled to Argentina in the summer.

The omissions are all the more striking given 15 internationals are sidelined through injury, and all but four of them – the cruelly unfortunate Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald, Donnacha Ryan and Mike Sherry – were picked by Schmidt in his first season at the helm.

The Lord giveth as well as taketh away, though. Hence there are also returns from injury for Seán Cronin, Richardt Strauss, Mike McCarthy, Peter O’Mahony, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Olding, Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy, with recalls for Stephen Archer, Tommy O’Donnell and Gordon D’Arcy.

Henshaw, originally picked for the Argentine tour and assuredly pencilled in for one or both Test starts before withdrawing with a hand ligament injury, would appear, alongside Payne, to be the leading candidates to fill the number 13 jersey vacated by Brian O’Driscoll.

Tommy Bowe and D’Arcy could be further options, although the only out-and-out inside centre in the squad aside from D’Arcy is Olding.

Once again there appears to be something of a jinx on Irish wingers, and while Bowe and Gilroy return, last season’s Irish player of the Six Nations, Andrew Trimble, has now joined Dave Kearney (the other ever-present winger in that triumphant campaign) and their main back-up, Fergus McFadden, on the sidelines. And that’s not mentioning Earls and Fitzgerald. Accordingly, the only out-and-out wingers in the squad are Bowe, Gilroy and Simon Zebo.

Callow look

Similarly, in the absence of both Cian Healy and Marty Moore, for all the emergence of young props lately, the back-up has a relatively callow look to it, even if White is 33-years-old.

The three looseheads in the squad have just four starting Tests between them, and the three tightheads backing up Mike Ross have none.

Ireland begin their month by hosting Heyneke Meyer’s South Africa at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, 8th November. The Springboks ended the All Blacks’ 22-game unbeaten run with their victory at Ellis Park in the final game of the Rugby Championship three weeks ago.

On Sunday, 16th November, Ireland play host to Georgia, before Australia return to the Aviva on Saturday, 22nd November, having won at the venue a year ago 32-15. Both the Springbok and Wallaby games are sell-outs.

IRELAND (Squad for autumn internationals, number of caps after club; *denotes uncapped player)

Forwards (21): Stephen Archer (Munster) 2, Rodney Ah You (Connacht) 1, Rory Best (Ulster) 77, James Cronin (Munster) 1, Seán Cronin (Leinster) 35, Robbie Diack (Ulster) 1, Dave Foley (Munster)*,Chris Henry (Ulster) 16, Jamie Heaslip (Leinster) 67, Dave Kilcoyne (Munster) 10, Mike McCarthy (Leinster) 15, Jack McGrath (Leinster) 10, Paul O’Connell (Munster) 94 captain, Tommy O’Donnell (Munster) 4, Peter O’Mahony (Munster) 23, Mike Ross (Leinster) 41, Rhys Ruddock (Leinster) 3, Dominic Ryan (Leinster)*, Richardt Strauss (Leinster) 4, Devin Toner (Leinster) 17, Nathan White (Connacht) *.

Backs (16): Tommy Bowe (Ulster) 54, Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster) 79, Craig Gilroy (Ulster) 5, Robbie Henshaw (Connacht) 3, Felix Jones (Munster) 6, Rob Kearney (Leinster) 55, Ian Keatley (Munster) 2, Darragh Leader (Connacht)*, Ian Madigan (Leinster) 10, Kieran Marmion (Connacht) 2, Conor Murray (Munster) 28, Stuart Olding (Ulster) 1, Jared Payne (Ulster)*, Eoin Reddan (Leinster) 55, Johnny Sexton (Racing Metro) 45, Simon Zebo (Munster) 8.

Players unavailable for selection due to injury include: Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald (returning from long term injury), Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Dave Kearney, Luke Marshall, Fergus McFadden, Martin Moore, Jordi Murphy, Seán O’Brien, Donnacha Ryan, Mike Sherry, Dan Tuohy, Andrew Trimble and Damien Varley.

FIXTURES (all at Aviva Stadium)

Ireland v South Africa, Saturday November 8th, 17:30

Ireland v Georgia, Sunday November 16th, 14:30

Ireland v Australia, Saturday November 22nd, 16:30

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