Simon Zebo set for Ireland return in autumn internationals

Andy Farrell includes uncapped Leinster duo Ciarán Frawley and Dan Sheehan in 38-man squad

Simon Zebo is set to play for Ireland for the first time since 2017 during the autumn internationals. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Simon Zebo is set to play for Ireland for the first time since 2017 during the autumn internationals. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

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The 38-man Irish squad for the November Tests features a notable return for Simon Zebo, for the first time since June 2017, and the inclusion of two uncapped players in the rising young Leinster duo of 23-year-old hooker Dan Sheahan and the 24-year-old Skerries product Ciarán Frawley.

Johnny Sexton, who is in line to win his 100th cap for Ireland in the opening game against Japan on Saturday, November 6th before Ireland host New Zealand a week later, will captain the side.

As expected, Andy Farrell has included Iain Henderson and Conor Murray, even though neither has made their seasonal reappearance, as well as four more of Ireland’s Lions contingent, Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan and Tadgh Furlong, who all started their first games of the campaign last weekend, as well as Rónan Kelleher, who joined the squad in South Africa.

The exception is Robbie Henshaw, an ever-present in the Lions’ Test series, who has not been named due to the knee injury which has delayed his start to the season. But he will continue his rehabilitation programme under the supervision of the Ireland medical team.

Six of the players who won their first caps during the summer against Japan and the USA have been included in the squad, namely Robert Baloucoune, Harry Byrne, Gavin Coombes, James Hume, Tom O’Toole and Nick Timoney.

Like Baloucoune, Jacob Stockdale has been injured since Ulster’s first game of the season, but he is not named.

Those to miss out after being involved in the Six Nations or last summer include Dave Heffernan, Fineen Wycherley, Ross Moloney, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly and Shane Daly, while other notable absentees are Rhys Ruddock and Jack O’Donoghue.

Thomas Ahern (Munster) and Jamie Osborne (Leinster) will train with the squad as development players during this window.

No Irish squad has been so undercooked going into a November series and Andy Farrell commented: “It has been a short lead-in to this international window but that is the challenge, to get back up to speed quickly and build on the performances from the Six Nations and the summer Tests. This is the start of an exciting period for the group as we begin to build towards the Rugby World Cup in France.

“In September we got together and mapped out what was coming up in this window, the exciting fixtures that lay ahead in the next 12 months and beyond that the opportunities to improve as a group over the next five windows we will have together.

“In a few weeks’ time we will face an exciting and well coached Japan team who showed in July what a dangerous team they are. New Zealand dominated the Rugby Championship losing just one game while Argentina are battle hardened from playing the southern hemisphere’s big three week-in, week-out over the past two months.

“It would be fantastic to play in front of a full house at the Aviva Stadium. We had small crowds back in for the games in July and even that made a huge difference to the team and the atmosphere in the stadium.”

Ireland squad for autumn internationals

(*denotes uncaped player)

Forwards

Hookers:
Rob Herring (Ulster), Rónan Kelleher (Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Leinster)*.

Props: Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Tom O’Toole (Ulster), Andrew Porter (Leinster).

Locks: Ryan Baird (Leinster), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster).

Backrows: Jack Conan (Leinster), Gavin Coombes (Munster), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Nick Timoney (Ulster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster).

Backs

Scrumhalves: Craig Casey (Munster), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster).

Outhalves: Harry Byrne (Leinster), Joey Carbery (Munster), Johnny Sexton (Leinster, capt).

Centres: Bundee Aki (Connacht), Ciarán Frawley (Leinster)*, James Hume (Ulster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster).

Outside backs: Robert Baloucoune (Ulster), Andrew Conway (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Hugo Keenan (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster), James Lowe (Leinster), Simon Zebo (Munster.

Development Players
Thomas Ahern (Munster)
Jamie Osborne (Leinster)

Fixtures (all at Aviva Stadium)
Saturday, November 6th:
Ireland v Japan, 1pm
Saturday, November 13th: Ireland v New Zealand, 3.15pm
Sunday, November 21st: Ireland v Argentina, 2.15pm

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