Sunday 17 February 2019

Uncapped Connacht trio included in Joe Schmidt's Six Nations squad, Ross Byrne a surprise omission

Caolin Blade, Jack Carty and Tom Farrell
Caolin Blade, Jack Carty and Tom Farrell
22 September 2018; Caolin Blade of Connacht during the Guinness PRO14 Round 4 match between Connacht and Scarlets at the Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

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.

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:

Forwards (21)

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

Backs (17)

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

To be in with a chance to win two tickets to Ireland vs England at the Aviva Stadium on February 2, click here.

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