Whitten is handed Ireland call as Henry misses out
Uncapped flanker Chris Henry is a major doubt for Ireland’s tour to North America after picking up a recurrence of a shoulder injury in Ulster’s drubbing by the Scarlets.
Henry was replaced by David Pollock in the 46th minute of his team’s dismal defeat in Wales.
The 24-year-old Ballymena star was scheduled to link up with Declan Kidney’s squad yesterday, but appears to be fighting a losing battle to make the two-Test tour, which starts on Saturday against Canada, before a further clash with the USA.
One man who will be on the plane that flies across the Atlantic is Ian Whitten, who has been called-up to replace fellow Ulsterman Paddy Wallace.
Ulster coach Matt Williams said: “Chris is in real pain after hurting the AC joint in his shoulder. He picked up the injury initially against Harlequins and has taken another bang on it. He is a doubt for the tour which is disappointing.
“It would have been great for Chris to get some caps under his belt because he would have learnt so much about the intensity and mental aspects of playing at that level.
“Chris will still go and meet up with the squad and we’ll let the medical team make the final decision.”
Whitten, who turns 22 next month, becomes the 13th uncapped member of the 25-man party after Wallace, a member of Ireland's Grand Slam-winning squad, was ruled out with a head injury.
Although he has largely played AIB League games with Ballymena, the centre is highly regarded by Ulster coach Matt Williams, and at 6' 2 and nearly 16 stone, will not be cowed by the physical challenge presented by the Canadians and Americans.
Still a member of the Ulster Academy set-up, Whitten made his senior debut for Ulster away to Stade Francais in the Heineken Cup in January, scoring a memorable try.
Saturday’s game against the Scarlets was his seventh in an Ulster shirt and in that time Whitten’s partnership with Darren Cave has blossomed and Ireland coach Kidney is likely to hand the pair a chance to impress in the international jersey side by side on the tour.
The Irish squad flew to Vancouver yesterday ahead of Saturday's Test with Canada at the Thunderbird Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Lions touring party, who assemble in Surrey today ahead of Sunday's departure for South Africa, await news on Alan Quinlan’s expected plan to appeal his 12-week ban before they announce a replacement, which will almost certainly be Leicester's Tom Croft.
Injured Welsh centre Tom Shanklin will not be replaced, leaving a 36-man squad.
IRELAND SQUAD: Rory Best (capt), Tony Buckley,
Ryan Caldwell , Bob Casey, Darren Cave, Tom Court, Sean Cronin, Ian Dowling, Gavin Duffy, Chris Henry, Denis Hurley, Ian Keatley, Denis Leamy, Keith Matthews , John Muldoon, Barry Murphy, Niall O'Connor, Mick O'Driscoll, Eoin Reddan, Niall Ronan, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Peter Stringer, Ian Whitten, Bryan Young.