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Who is Mike McCarthy?

Equally at home at second-row, blind-side flanker or No 8, the 6ft 4ins McCarthy has been one of Connacht's most consistent performers over the past few seasons, clocking up his 100th cap against Bayonne last weekend.

Born in London in 1981, the 29-year-old was educated at the famous Sedbergh school in Cumbria, which has produced a host of England internationals, notably Will Carling and Will Greenwood.

McCarthy represented England at underage level and played for Wasps in the early 2000s, picking up Challenge Cup and English Premiership medals. He spent a season with Connacht in 2003/04 before switching to Newcastle, where he played for three seasons and was named supporters Player of the Year in 2006 before rejoining Connacht at the start of the 2007/08 season.

A dynamic ball-carrier, McCarthy is also an accomplished line-out jumper and a physical presence in defence -- his versatility makes him a useful addition to the squad.

Wolfhounds to watch

Dominic Ryan

The Leinster flanker's rise to prominence can justifiably be described as meteoric since making his senior debut as an Academy player just over a year ago. Still only 20, Ryan has made 14 appearances for Joe Schmidt this season, including impressive Heineken Cup performances against Clermont and Saracens, crossing for two tries in last weekend's victory over Mark McCall's men. Ireland are well served in the back-row, but Ryan's athleticism and physicality in defence give him frightening potential and his inclusion in the Wolfhounds squad shows that Ireland management feel the same way.

Willie Faloon

Not used as much as he should have been at Ulster this season, but Faloon has impressed whenever he has taken the field. Quality specialist open-sides are thin on the ground and if he gets an opportunity to prove his worth with the Wolfhounds, Faloon could start forcing his way further up the ladder.

Jamie Hagan

His displays for Connacht are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve and Hagan is second only to Mike Ross in terms of his form this season. John Hayes holds onto his place in the senior squad, but Hagan is the coming man and game time for the Wolfhounds should demonstrate as much.

Eoin O'Malley

Another exciting Leinster talent who has stepped up to the plate in a big way this season. O'Malley was superb at Clermont and, with his unpredictable style, he gives an added spark to midfield. One of the reasons why the Wolfhounds backs should be worth watching.

Irish Independent