Jamie Heaslip to captain Ireland against Barbarians
Back-row forward will lead his country in the absence of Paul O'Connell as Leinster and Ulster players are given licence to shine
Leinster skipper Jamie Heaslip will captain an Ireland XV against the Barbarians at Thomond Park on Thursday.
The 27-man squad made up entirely of Leinster and Ulster players includes seven uncapped names for the non-cap game against Robbie Deans’ squad boasting almost 800 international caps.
There’s a keenness by the boys to be involved in the match and bring forth their best at Thomond.
The Ireland coaches have opted not to select Connacht players after a heartbreaking 40-32 defeat to Gloucester after extra time in their European Champions Cup qualifier yesterday, while Munster players are not involved as they prepare for the Guinness PRO12 final in Belfast this Saturday.
Despite drawing from just two provinces, the Ireland squad has 363 international caps and boasts a number of senior players in Heaslip, full-back Rob Kearney, prop Mike Ross, and scrum-half Eoin Reddan.
Leinster full-back Cian Kelleher and centre Colm O’Shea, as well as Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey, are among the uncapped players to be given a chance to show what they can do ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss insists that they have tried to reciprocate the spirit of Barbarians rugby by involving a number of young players alongside a mix of seasoned internationals for the match in Limerick with around 15,000 tickets already sold for the clash.
“We knew it was an opportunity to probably explore a few options, but also to give a some guys, who had come back into the fray more recently, a bit of a run,” Kiss told Irish Rugby TV.
“Cian Kelleher, Colm O’Shea – those types of guys – being in the environment, it’s great to see them there, but it also lives up to the spirit of what the Barbarians is about: you always like to expose a couple of good, exciting young people into the framework there.
“Overall, we want to make sure we’re covering our bases with certain players. Some will be rested, some are carrying a few little injuries, and we’re managing that to get the best mix possible.
“It’ll be exciting because when you look at what the Barbarians have brought to the table as well in Brad Thorn and George Smith – two Trojans of the game – it can really set it up for an exciting affair, so we’ve tried to reciprocate with our selection.
“There’s a keenness by the boys to be involved in the match and bring forth their best at Thomond.”
The all-star Barbarians squad includes Ulster and South Africa scrum-half Ruan Pienaar and Leinster trio Shane Jennings, Zane Kirchner and Jimmy Gopperth.
Other international heavyweights at Deans’ disposal include All Blacks trio Brad Thorn, Joe Rokocoko and George Whitelock, Australia’s most-capped forward George Smith, England duo Thomas Waldrom and Ugo Monye, as well as Wales and British and Irish Lions duo Alex Cuthbert and Adam Jones.
Ireland squad to face Barbarians (27):
Forwards (15): Michael Bent (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster, captain), Chris Henry (Ulster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Ben Marshall (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster).
Backs (12): Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Dave Kearney (Leinster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Cian Kelleher (Leinster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Luke McGrath (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Colm O’Shea (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Noel Reid (Leinster).
Barbarians squad (30):
Forwards (17): Matías Díaz (Pampas/Argentina), Jason Eaton (La Rochelle/New Zealand), Deon Fourie (Lyon), Shane Jennings (Leinster/Ireland), Pablo Matera (Pampas/Argentina), Konstantin Mikautadze (Toulon/Georgia), Ryu Koliniasi Holani (Panasonic Wild Knights/Japan), Adam Jones (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Rodrigo Capó Ortega (Castres/Uruguay), George Smith (Lyon/Australia), Saimone Taumoepeau (Castres/New Zealand), Rodrigo Tejerizo (Tucumán/Argentina), Brad Thorn (Leicester Tigers/New Zealand), Gerhard Vosloo (Toulon), David Ward (Harlequins), Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs/England), George Whitelock (Panasonic Wild Knights/New Zealand).
Backs (13): Gio Aplon (Grenoble/South Africa), Stephen Brett (Lyon), Tomás Cubelli (Belgrano Ath/Argentina), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Yoshikazu Fujita (Panasonic Wild Knights/Japan), Jimmy Gopperth (Leinster), Zane Kirchner (Leinster/South Africa), Ugo Monye (Harlequins/England), Wynand Olivier (Montpellier/South Africa), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster/South Africa), Tusi Pisi (Suntory Sungoliath/Samoa), Joe Rokocoko (Bayonne/New Zealand), David Smith (Toulon).