Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

O’Connell and Best to miss Ireland tour

John Fogarty and Ed O'Donoghue have been called up to the Ireland squad to tour New Zealand and Australia, after second-row Paul O'Connell and hooker Rory Best were ruled out yesterday.

They had failed to recover from groin and ankle injuries respectively.

O'Connell has been battling with a groin injury since Ireland's final Six Nations game against Scotland on March 20 and, while Ireland coach Declan Kidney said he wanted to give the second-row “every chance” when he named him in his original 33-man touring party, the prospects of the Munster captain making the trip always appeared remote.

The loss of two senior players robs Ireland of experience at hooker and second-row for the three-match tour, which features Tests against the All Blacks and Wallabies as well as a clash with the powerful New Zealand Maoris side in Rotorua.

Ireland are already without Grand Slam-winning back-rows Denis Leamy and Stephen Ferris, as well as winger Luke Fitzgerald and second-row Donnacha Ryan.

Alan Quinlan was touted as a contender to replace O'Connell, given that his experience would be invaluable on what promises to be an arduous expedition.

However, although Quinlan has played second-row in the past, he is not a specialist lock-forward.

O'Donoghue, who joins Leinster next season, has played consistently for Ulster this campaign alongside fellow uncapped tourist Dan Tuohy, while Fogarty, who replaces Ulsterman Best, has been excellent at hooker for Leinster, recently picking up the IRUPA Unsung Hero award.

The inclusion of O'Donoghue and Fogarty brings the number of uncapped players in the 33-man party to five, the others being Tuohy, centre Fergus McFadden and No 8 Chris Henry.

Coach Kidney can only hope he will not be forced to return to the drawing board, with Fogarty one of nine members of his squad lining out for Leinster in the Magners League final against Ospreys today.

Ireland prepare for the tour in the Antipodes with a clash against the Barbarians at Thomond Park next Friday night.

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