NOT LONG AFTER announcing his 31-man squad for the Guinness Series next month, Ireland coach Declan Kidney said the party would soon be increased to 33.
Declan Fitzpatrick is likely to fill one of those berths, with Kidney set to watch Worcester Warriors play Sale Sharks tomorrow where John Andress and Tony Buckley will be in opposition.
Kidney also want to bring his backs quota up to 14, two full sets.
The obvious area of weakness in the back-line is the area where Ireland were at their strongest in this year’s Six Nations.
With Rob Kearney ruled out for up to 10 weeks, yesterday’s 31-strong squad contained only Keith Earls and Tommy Bowe as viable options for the number 15 shirt.
This weekend’s Pro12 fixtures just got interesting.
“We’ll take a good look at how things go over the weekend. A few lads have been playing well, like Ian Madigan, Ian Keatley. I thought they had gone well. Robbie Henshaw has been going well with Connacht.
Obviously with Rob just going in for surgery yesterday, we knew these lads were in the background but didn’t actually have to make a decision until yesterday morning. And rather than rush into it,” Kidney stopped short of saying he will wait to see how this week’s matches turn out.
However, the former Munster coach did add that his 14th back may not turn out to be a player to cover fullback
“It could be a fullback or it could be a guy in another position. We have two guys who can run (at fullback) out there already and we’d have ideas around one or two other fellas aswell. But I’d just like to see how this weekend’s games go before finalising it.
“If I name a list I could leave somebody out, but you’d have: Robbie Henshaw, Ian Keatley, Denis Hurley, Felix Jones, Ian Madigan.. any of those guys.”
What about this one?
The other jersey that injury has forced up for grabs is Sean O’Brien’s spot as openside flanker.
On this position Kidney was much less evasive, and pretty much nailed-on Peter O’Mahony for the role even though eh has played all his rugby at number eight this season.
“Chris (Henry) has obviously been doing a good job at seven,” Kidney began having been asked about the Ulster back row being the only regular openside in the squad. He quickly moved on to the next in line.
“Peter O’Mahony will probably get a run at seven this weekend and got a run (in the same position) in two matches last year. With the matches we have to come, we think that’s a good combination for us to cover that position. Obviously, other guys have been playing well – Shane Jennings has been playing well.”
Kidney then also referred to Sean Dougall, Willie Faloon and Johnny O’Connor, before summing up, “we just feel these lads fit the bill better for us in this series.”