McFadden set for Irish debut after call-up to senior squad
IRELAND'S back-three injury crisis continues to grow with the confirmation that Tommy Bowe will not be available for the Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday week.
Bowe was ruled out of contention last night after medical examinations on his knee by the Ospreys and Ireland camps. Fergus McFadden was called up to the senior squad yesterday and the 24-year-old is now a strong contender to make his international debut, given that Shane Horgan (kneecap), Andrew Trimble (arm), Rob Kearney (knee) and Geordan Murphy (ankle) are already unavailable.
At the Six Nations launch in London yesterday, Kidney was optimistic that No 8 Jamie Heaslip would recover from his ankle injury in time for the Italy game, but, after seeing a specialist, the Leinster man was also officially ruled out last night. It leaves Heaslip's provincial colleague Sean O'Brien in pole position to start his first Six Nations match, while it is expected that Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris will not be ruled out following his knee injury.
With John Hayes also ruled out of the trip to Rome with a groin problem, Tony Buckley will have the chance to force his way back into the reckoning after he was named at tight-head on the Ireland Wolfhounds side to face Scotland 'A' in Netherdale tomorrow night.
Connacht tight-head Jamie Hagan, who is understood to have agreed a move back to Leinster next season, is on the bench for that match, while Tom Court and Mike Ross are the other contenders for the No 3 jersey against a powerful Italian pack.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney said the Wolfhounds players "are very much in contention" for the Italy game and believes Ireland have to make the best out of the bad injury situation.
"We've tried to build a squad over the last few years and this will be the test of that," said Kidney.