Thursday 22 February 2018

Kidney backs O'Callaghan as seven new faces named for Babas clash

Ireland Head Coach Declan Kidney (L) celebrates winning the Grand Slam with Paddy Wallace of Ireland after the RBS 6 Nations. Photo: Getty Images
Ireland Head Coach Declan Kidney (L) celebrates winning the Grand Slam with Paddy Wallace of Ireland after the RBS 6 Nations. Photo: Getty Images
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

DECLAN KIDNEY has once again left himself open to accusations of conservatism after naming Donncha O'Callaghan and Paddy Wallace in his squad to face the Barbarians in Gloucester on May 29.

With the Leinster squad unavailable due to the Pro12 final taking place on Sunday May 27, the Ireland coach could only pick from Munster, Ulster and Connacht's panels for the clash which comes days before the squad fly out for their three-Test tour of New Zealand.

And while he has included seven new faces and retained two open spots for any players who do not feature for Leinster against the Ospreys, Kidney's selection of out-of-favour Munster second-row O'Callaghan sure to draw the ire of critics.

O'Callaghan has struggled badly for form this season and has been behind Donnacha Ryan in Tony McGahan's pecking order. But he has remained central to Kidney's plans, and Connacht's Mike McCarthy was the man to miss out.


Wallace's selection, however unpopular, is more straightforward given the unavailability of Leinster quartet Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Fergus McFadden and Eoin O'Malley.

However, his presence does mean that Ian Keatley is left out, with the Ulster man covering out-half behind Ronan O'Gara ahead of the arrival of Jonny Sexton.

Four of the new faces are in the back division: Ulster trio Craig Gilroy, Nevin Spence and Paul Marshall, and Munster wing Simon Zebo. There are three uncapped front-rows: Munster's Mike Sherry, Connacht's Ronan Loughney and Ulster's Declan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick has had his opportunities limited by the presence of John Afoa at Ravenhill and he could come up against his provincial rival at Kingsholm. The former All Black is one of five Irish-based players named in the Barbarians squad.

Former Springboks Pedrie Wannenburg and BJ Botha are joined by Isa Nacewa and retiring Munster second-row Mick O'Driscoll, while Leinster legend Felipe Contepomi will get another chance to renew his rivalry with O'Gara if selected.

Paul O'Connell was not considered for the squad to face the Barbarians, but he has not yet been ruled out of the tour to New Zealand, the squad for which will be named on Monday after the Heineken Cup final.

Ireland squad (v Barbarians, Gloucester's Kingsholm ground, May 29) -- Forwards: R Best (Ulster), T Court (Ulster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), C Henry (Ulster), R Loughney (Connacht), J Muldoon (Connacht), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), D Ryan (Munster), M Sherry (Munster), D Tuohy (Ulster), AN Other.

Backs: D Cave (Ulster), K Earls (Munster), C Gilroy (Ulster), P Marshall (Ulster), C Murray (Munster), R O'Gara (Munster), N Spence (Ulster), A Trimble (Ulster), P Wallace (Ulster), S Zebo (Munster), AN Other.

Irish Independent

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