EOIN REDDAN and Peter Stringer have been playing back-up to Tomas O'Leary since Declan Kidney took over as Ireland coach in 2008.
Kidney elevated O'Leary over Stringer when he was with Munster earlier that year in a shock selection for the Heineken Cup quarter-final tie with Gloucester and stuck with that preference when he took over the national team and brought them to Grand Slam glory in 2009.
O'Leary remained first-choice No 9 through last season, but the hand injury that ruled him out of the November Series has left the Corkman short on game time and now the scrum-half's jersey is up for grabs against Italy in Rome next weekend.
Reddan and Stringer were named in the Six Nations squad based on greater game time and superior form, while O'Leary and Isaac Boss were the scrum-halves included in the Ireland 'A' squad for last night's match in Scotland. Nonetheless, Reddan, who has been in excellent form for Leinster as they swept into the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, has made no assumptions about next Tuesday's team announcement.
"I thought straight away that it means absolutely nothing," said Reddan.
"Declan could easily watch the two boys for the 'A' side and come up with whatever, so it's my job to put myself in the best position by training well. I still didn't read anything into it that we (Reddan and Stringer) would be definitely involved or vice versa.
"I certainly am enjoying the way we're playing in Leinster, but it's up to other people to make those decisions and those calls. Sometimes you would be very happy with your form and mightn't get the nod, other times you might feel you're not doing anything right and you might get the nod.
"It's about what people want at times, but, of course, playing on a winning team is better; being in a losing dressing-room is a very lonely place, anyone will tell you that."
For all the rivalry, Reddan says the relationship between Ireland's scrum-halves is extremely healthy and he is eagerly anticipating what he expects to be a very competitive Six Nations.
"Generally most nines get on very well because they have the same things in common, issues about the way the breakdown, scrums and line-outs are going, you will all have that issue, so you will likely work together to sort that out; because you've got a common interest," he said.
"The Six Nations will be very big this year, very competitive. Scotland are playing very well, England put in some big performances during the autumn, Wales are probably hurting a bit and want to come back strong.
"So, I think it's going to be a tough Six Nations and a massive opportunity against quality opposition to get a big reward if we can put ourselves in a position that, come the end of it, we're in with a shot of winning it."