Uncapped Connacht trio included in Joe Schmidt's Six Nations squad, Ross Byrne a surprise omission
Joe Schmidt has named the uncapped Connacht trio of Caolin Blade, Tom Farrell and Jack Carty in his Ireland squad for the 2019 Six Nations games against England and Scotland respectively.
Carty is preferred to Leinster flyhalf Ross Byrne who is omitted from the 38-man squad.
With Luke McGrath out for the entire tournament and Kieran Marmion still recovering from an ankle ligament issue, Blade is brought in as cover at scrumhalf.
Farrell has been rewarded for his current form for Andy Friend's outfit.
Here's the Ireland squad for the opening rounds of @SixNationsRugby— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) January 16, 2019
3 uncapped players and several 'tight calls' says Head Coach Joe Scmidt.#TeamOfUs #Ireland #ShoulderToShoulder #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/FbfH3jNS2G
Joe Schmidt, Ireland head coach said: “It’s been great to watch the provincial teams doing so well in recent weeks.
"With another very competitive round of EPCR this weekend, the following Ireland squad for the first two matches of the Six Nations has been selected, knowing that late changes may be required, depending on how the matches go in the weekend. There have been a number of tight calls across almost every position.
“In the front row, Finlay Bealham was very close, as was Marty Moore, who is getting back to the form that saw him win 10 caps in the past and Stephen Archer was at his combative best in Gloucester at the weekend. Rob Herring is very unlucky as his performances for the National team have been first rate. Denis Buckley has done well for Connacht and the promising young loose heads Ed Byrne and Eric O’Sullivan have continued to impress.
"Quinn Roux was very close to selection in the second row, which has become highly competitive with youngsters Gav Thornbury, Fineen Wycherley and Kieran Treadwell all impressing of late along with the experienced Billy Holland.
"Even more competitive is the back row, where those selected could well be joined by Dan Leavy once he’s fully fit. Sean Reidy continues to be all action for Ulster and Tommy O’Donnell is starting to get back to top form as well after his recent return from injury. With a cohort of young players emerging, it will continue to keep plenty of pressure on the performances of the experienced back rowers who have been selected.
"Conor Murray is back but Luke McGrath’s knee injury against Toulouse is likely to rule him out of the Six Nations. Kieran Marmion is not too far away from returning but John Cooney will hopefully be back this weekend for Ulster. It’s a great opportunity for Caolin Blade to get into camp and compete for a spot.
"Johnny Sexton is making good progress, while Joey Carbery and Jack Carty have both performed consistently well so far this season. Ross Byrne is unlucky in an incredibly tight call. He is still definitely in our thinking and will continue to press for inclusion through the Six Nations and beyond, while Billy Burns has also fitted in really well for Ulster this season.
"Bundee Aki and a fresh and fully fit Robbie Henshaw squeeze out Rory Scannell, who was great for Munster last Friday, and Stu McCloskey, who continues to give Ulster gain line as well as defensive solidity. At outside centre Tom Farrell has forced his way into contention and Chris Farrell is working his way back to match fitness, improving week by week. We’re sure that Sam Arnold and Rory O’Loughlin will continue to improve and both have plenty of promise.
"Finally Adam Byrne and Dave Kearney were both very good against Toulouse. The Connacht outside backs have been consistently good, Mike Haley is growing into his role with Munster while we look forward to a fit again Darren Sweetnam gaining some game minutes over the coming weeks."
Ireland begin the defence of their Six Nations crown against England on February 2 before travelling to Murrayfield to face the Scots seven days later.
IRELAND squad 2019 Guinness Six Nations Championship Rounds 1 & 2:
Rory Best (Ulster/Banbridge) 113 caps (c)
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 4 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 11 caps
Sean Cronin (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 65 caps
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 11 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 28 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 84 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Queens University) 42 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 24 caps
Jack McGrath (Leinster/St Marys College) 53 caps
Jordi Murphy (Ulster/Lansdowne) 26 caps
Sean O’Brien (Leinster/UCD) 52 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 52 caps (vc)
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 11 caps
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 21 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 13 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 16 caps
Niall Scannell (Munster/Dolphin) 11 caps
CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 28 caps
Devin Toner (Leinster/Lansdowne) 63 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 13 caps
Will Addison (Ulster/Enniskillen) 3 caps
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 12 caps
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) 0 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 16 caps
Jack Carty (Connacht/Buccaneers) 0 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 10 caps
John Cooney (Ulster/Terenure College) 4 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 72 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 3 caps
Tom Farrell (Connacht/TBC) 0 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 36 caps
Rob Kearney (Leinster/UCD) 87 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 9 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 67 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 17 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Marys College) 78 caps (vc)
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 14 caps
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