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McFadden stakes his claim for Ireland slot


Luke Fitzgerald training. Photo: Sportsfile

Luke Fitzgerald training. Photo: Sportsfile

Luke Fitzgerald training. Photo: Sportsfile

IRELAND coach Joe Schmidt has brought Munster lock Donnacha Ryan straight into his 33-man squad to prepare for England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Nenagh second row is one of five second rows included after playing just 68 minutes of rugby last Saturday in over two months.

This is a measure of the opinion Schmidt has of Ryan, only recently deposed as an automatic first choice beside captain Paul O'Connell by the superb form of Devin Toner.

The likely reason for Ryan's promotion is to give him more time to come to terms with the detailed work Schmidt is looking for in his lock forwards.

In fact, there are five second rows with Mike McCarthy and Iain Henderson ranked ahead of Ryan to be the match-day back-up man to O'Connell and Toner.


There is also a decision to be made at nine where Leinster's Isaac Boss, still an injury doubt from his spear tackle by The Dragons' Chapparo Francsico on Friday, and the fit again Eoin Reddan will dual it out to support Conor Murray.

Simon Zebo has fallen short in his bid to break into the reckoning, Schmidt holding firm to his three wings Dave Kearney, Andrew Trimble and Fergus McFadden.

It was just four days ago when McFadden talked openly and quite rightly about how the wing jerseys rival those of the back row as the most competitive in the Ireland squad.

That was before Luke Fitzgerald was deemed nearly there, but not quite, and Ulster's Tommy Bowe was also ruled not ready for his club.

This is relevant because England are at their weakest, more accurately, at their most inexperienced where Wales were at their strongest.

Stuart Lancaster's three-quarter line is short on experience and in a process of development should he stick with Billy Twelvetrees, Luther Burrell, Jack Nowell and Jonny May.

It is this quartet that will be earmarked for special attention. Where Joe Schmidt planned to turn and test the proven Welsh, he may opt for the tactic of asking England's big centres Twelvetrees and Burrell, if selected, to make quick decisions with multiple Irish runners moving around them. Then again, the Irish players have a sound insight into how England's defence coach Andy Farrell likes to work and the tiggers he activates. Inside info could be Ireland's greatest friend as they steer a course through Europe.


However, there was some bad news for England after prop Dan Cole was ruled out of the the remainder of the Six Nations because of a bulging disc in his neck which is trapping a nerve.

Cole needs a period of rest after the injury was diagnosed when the Leicester tighthead experienced weakness during a gym session at St George's Park last week.

IRELAND 33-MAN (Squad v England)

Forwards (18): R Best, S Cronin, C Healy, J Heaslip, I Henderson, C Henry, D Kilcoyne, M McCarthy, J McGrath, M Moore, J Murphy, P O'Connell, T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony, M Ross, R Ruddock, D Ryan, D Toner.

Backs (15): I Boss, G D'Arcy, R Henshaw, P Jackson, F Jones, D Kearney, R Kearney, I Madigan, L Marshall, F McFadden, C Murray, B O'Driscoll, E Reddan, J Sexton, A Trimble.