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Horan back in fold for Irish

Ireland coach Declan Kidney welcomed back front-row forwards Marcus Horan and Rory Best when he named a full strength squad ahead of next month's Six Nations defence.

Ulster hooker Best has not played this season but is recovering from neck surgery quicker than expected.

Munster prop Horan, having missed out on the autumn internationals after undergoing a routine medical procedure for a minor heart ailment, has not played for his province since the Heineken Cup win over Treviso in October, but he played 80 minutes for Shannon in their AIL match against Dolphin on Saturday and is included in Munster's squad for the Heineken Cup clash against Northampton on Friday.

Kidney includes nine uncapped players in an extended 44-man squad that will be whittled down before their next month's Six Nations opener at home to usual whipping boys Italy.

The coach said that despite Ireland's provincial sides performing well, with Leinster and Munster inching closer to winning their Heineken Cup pools last weekend, his focus would not stray beyond the clash with the Italians.

"The provinces have all been in good form, making selection even more competitive, but the focus is very much on our game against Italy," said Kidney.

Ireland visit France and England after their opening fixture before finishing the campaign at home to Wales and Scotland.

Ireland squad: R Best (Belfast H'quins/Ulster), I Boss (Ballymena/Ulster), T Bowe (Ospreys), T Buckley (Shannon/Munster), T Court (Malone/Ulster), S Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), L Cullen (Blackrock Coll/Leinster), G D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), I Dowling (Shannon/ Munster), K Earls (Young Munster/Munster), S Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), D Fitzpatrick (Belfast H'quins/ Ulster), J Flannery (Shannon/Munster), J Fogarty (DLSP/ Leinster), J Hayes (Bruff/Munster), C Healy (Clontarf/ Leinster), J Heaslip (Naas/Leinster), C Henry (Ballymena/ Ulster), M Horan (Shannon/Munster), S Horgan (Boyne/ Leinster), D Hurley (Cork Con/Munster), S Jennings (St Mary's Coll/Leinster), R Kearney (UCD/Leinster), F McFadden (UCD/Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (UCD/Leinster), J Murphy (Leicester), D O'Callaghan (Cork Con/Munster), P O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster), M O'Driscoll (Cork Con/Munster) , B O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster), R O'Gara (Cork Con/Munster), T O'Leary (Dolphin/Munster), S O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), E Reddan (Lansdowne/ Leinster), M Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), D Ryan (Shannon/ Munster), J Sexton (St Mary's Coll/Leinster), P Stringer (Shannon/Munster), D Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), A Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), D Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), D Wallace (Garryowen/Munster), P Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster), B Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht).