Ulster players to fore in Ireland squad
Ulster's progress and current standing in Irish rugby is reflected in 10 players' inclusion in Declan Kidney’s 31-man squad for November’s 2012 Guinness Series games against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina.
That is the same level of representation as European champions Leinster, and one more than Munster, hitherto regarded as Ireland's 'big two'. The balance is made up by a brace from Connacht.
The Ulstermen include two of the young players who have made such an impact this season, 21-year-old centre Luke Marshall and lock/flanker Iain Henderson, who is a year younger.
For Irish Under 20s starlet Henderson to be included in the senior squad after only five Ulster appearances is a remarkable display of faith by normally-conservative coach, Decaln Kidney. They are two of the four uncapped players in the 31, the others being Munster prop David Kilcoyne and Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss who is South African but now qualifies by virtue of residency.
And Kidney’s announcement included reassurance for 30 times-capped Ulster centre, Paddy Wallace, now 33, with the coach stressing: “I have been on to James (Downey) and Paddy and they’re far from out of the picture. If we have bangs or knocks over the weekend, they could well be coming in.”
Ireland squad: Rory Best, Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Tom Court (all Ulster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip (both Leinster), Iain Henderson (Queens University*, Chris Henry (both Ulster).
David Kilcoyne (Munster)*, Luke Marshall (Ulster)*, John Muldoon (Connacht), Conor Murray (Munster), Mike McCarthy (Connacht), Fergus McFadden, Kevin McLaughlin (both Leinster), Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell (Munster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster, captain), Ronan O'Gara, Peter O'Mahony (both Munster), Eoin Reddan, Mike Ross (both Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Jonathan Sexton, Richardt Strauss* (both Leinster), Andrew Trimble, Dan Tuohy (both Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster)