Ireland Wolfhounds: Sean O’Brien to make shoulder injury comeback
Eleven Leinster players named in strong team to face England Saxons in 'A' team match at Irish Independent Park
Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien will make his long-awaited comeback in a very strong Ireland Wolfhounds team to take on England Saxons.
The 27-year-old has been plagued with shoulder problems in the last 12 months, missing Ireland’s 2014 Six Nations success, before it was revealed in October that his shoulder had become infected after surgery.
The early indications were that he could miss five or six months after the reconstruction, but his recovery is nearing completion with his inclusion in the Wolfhounds back row.
Dan McFarland’s starting XV boasts 11 Leinster players including experienced centre Gordon D’Arcy and outside-half Ian Madigan.
Munster full-back Felix Jones captains the team for the clash that opens the redeveloped and rebranded Irish Independent Park in Cork with many in the side hoping to get much-needed game time to stake a claim for a place in Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations plans.
Leinster duo Fergus McFaddern and Luke Fitzgerald take on wing duties with Ulster’s Craig Gilroy covering from the bench.
D’Arcy, who starts at inside-centre, has only played a bit-part role for Leinster this season, while Keith Earls will be hoping to impress from outside-centre after not playing a part in the Schmidt-era Ireland.
Madigan, who faces a battle with Munster’s Ian Keatley for the 10 jersey against Italy next weekend, is joined at half-back by Connacht’s Kieran Marmion.
Ulster’s Iain Henderson continues his return from injury with a place in the second row alongside Mike McCarthy, with a trio of Leinster forwards in the front row as Mike Ross and Jack McGrath pack down with hooker Richardt Strauss.
The only uncapped player in the starting XV is Jack Conan, who joins club team-mates Sean O’Brien and Dominic Ryan in the back row.
Ulster’s Jared Payne was not considered for selection, which was also the case with Keatley and Leinster flanker Tommy O’Donnell, suggesting that all three could be involved in the Ireland squad for the visit to Rome.
Ireland Wolfhounds: Felix Jones (Munster, captain); Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster); Ian Madigan (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht); Jack McGrath (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Mike McCarthy (Leinster), Dominic Ryan (Leinster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster)
Replacements: Rob Herring (Ulster), Michael Bent (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Eoin McKeon (Connacht); Isaac Boss (Leinster), Noel Reid (Clontarf/Leinster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster).