Six Nations 2015: Two new faces as Ireland name 46-man extended squad
Head coach Joe Schmidt maximises options as Ireland look to defend their Six Nations crown
Leinster back-rower Jack Conan and Connacht prop Nathan White are the only uncapped players in Ireland’s extended Six Nations squad.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has named 46 players for the opening two rounds of their title defence and the one-off Ireland Wolfhounds game against England Saxons on 30 January.
“The coaching group have tried to strike a balance between some players getting the chance to fully complete their rehabilitation programmes, or get a bit of rest and others getting the opportunity to push their claims with further game time in the Wolfhounds fixture,” Schmidt said.
Conan, 22, who can play at number eight or flanker, is the latest Dubliner to progress through the Ireland underage set-up, having made nine appearances for the U20 side in 2012 before making his professional debut for Leinster in February 2014 at Cardiff Blues.
New Zealand-born White, 33, has bided his time to earn a call-up to the Ireland team after joining Leinster in 2011 from the Chiefs franchise.
His solitary season in Dublin led to a move to Connacht in 2012, where the tighthead has been since, and his call-up comes in the same week he signed a new two-year deal with his province and the IRFU.
Despite questions over his match fitness with an enforced 12-week spell on the sidelines following a fourth concussion in 2014, Ireland talisman Johnny Sexton has been named for the matches against Italy and France.
Munster forward trio Robin Copeland, David Kilcoyne and Donncha Ryan as well as Ulster backs Luke Marshall and Andrew Trimble will remain with their provinces to continue their recovery and could be called up to the Ireland squad during the tournament.
But Ulster quartet Chris Henry, Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding and Dan Tuohy as well as Munster’s Damien Varley have been ruled unavailable for selection.
The Wolfhounds, coached by Dan McFarland and Richie Murphy, take on a strong Saxons squad of experienced internationals also vying for possible Six Nations action as the curtain-raiser for the revamped Musgrave Park, now rebranded as Irish Independent Park.
Ireland get their title defence under way with a trip to Rome to take on Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday 7 February before France visit a sold-out Aviva Stadium a week later.
Extended Ireland Squad:
Forwards (25): Michael Bent (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Jack Conan (Leinster),Sean Cronin (Leinster), James Cronin (Munster), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Dave Foley (Munster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Mike McCarthy (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Martin Moore (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Tommy O’Donnell (Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Dominic Ryan (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht).
Backs (21): Isaac Boss (Leinster), Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Felix Jones (Munster), David Kearney (Leinster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Ian Keatley (Munster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Jared Payne (Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Noel Reid (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro), Simon Zebo (Munster).