Ulster Rugby heroes await Ireland's call for Six Nations
Ulster's Heineken Cup heroics should see at least eight of their players today rewarded with places in Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad for the Six Nations Championship starting this weekend.
First up is a home date with Scotland on Sunday (3.00pm) and after excelling in Europe where they have emerged as number one seeds with the only six out of six pool-stage record, Ulster's stars have played their way into impossible-to-ignore positions.
The names Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall are certain to feature on today's list, while Dan Tuohy, Craig Gilroy and Andrew Trimble are very much in the hunt, too.
In addition, Tommy Bowe will be called up as soon as he is fit to resume, likewise Declan Fitzpatrick. Both, however, will be required to clock up some game-time with Ulster before joining the international squad.
On Saturday night Ulster had five starters – Rob Herring, Henderson, Tuohy, Darren Cave and Gilroy – on duty for the Ireland Wolfhounds who beat England Saxons 14-8 at Kingsholm and Robbie Diack joined the fray from the bench for the final 10 minutes.
For years the make-up of Irish squads quite rightly has reflected the dominance of Leinster and Munster. But now Ulster have bounced back to a position of increasing prominence and today's announcement is expected to mirror their re-emergence as a force not only in Ireland but in Europe.