Young Ulster duo Treadwell and Stockdale set to make Ireland debuts on summer tour
Ulster youngsters Jacob Stockdale and Kieran Treadwell have been rewarded for their fine seasons with first call-ups to the Ireland squad for the summer tour to the USA and Japan.
Stockdale, who only one year ago was a key part of the side who made an under-20 World Championship final, has taken huge strides forward for Ulster this season, scoring nine tries, a mark only matched by former All Black Charles Piutau.
Lock Treadwell arrived last summer from Harlequins having come through the Exiles system and the 21-year-old is Irish qualified through his mother.
Having adapted to the rigours of regular top-level rugby over the course of his maiden Ulster season, he was first-choice by the end of the year, starting the side's final seven games.
Ireland will play three Test matches on the tour, starting against the US Eagles in New Jersey on June 19, and then twice meeting 2019 World Cup foes Japan, in Shizuoka on June 17 and in Tokyo seven days later.
With an 11-strong Ireland contingent currently preparing for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, head coach Joe Schmidt has opted for a youthful selection, with eight of the 31 men having yet to win a first cap.
John Cooney, the Connacht scrum-half who will join Ulster this summer, is also among those who will be expected to make their Test bow, with Leinster's former Ireland under-20 captain James Ryan the real bolter in the squad having not yet made a senior appearance for his province.
On the inexperienced selection - only nine of the squad have amassed double-digit cap totals - Schmidt said he was looking forward to working with some fresh faces, and not only among the playing staff.
Ronan O'Gara, Felix Jones and Girvan Dempsey will all spend a week of the tour working with the national coaching ticket.
"With 11 players due to tour with the British and Irish Lions, plus a number of injuries to experienced internationals, the summer tour squad includes plenty of youth," said Schmidt.
"There is a real freshness to the group, including the coaching staff, so we're looking forward to what will be a very challenging summer tour.
"We have retained a sprinkling of experienced players, some of whom may yet be called up to the Lions, but the focus is really on challenging the younger players to cope with the heat and foreign conditions as well as the speed and physicality of test rugby."
Despite the two debutants, it is however a small Ulster representation with there sure to be some disappointment around Kingspan Stadium yesterday.
With Iain Henderson, Rory Best and Jared Payne among those on Lions duty and Stuart Olding injured, Luke Marshall and Paddy Jackson are the only others from the northern province to have been included.
Andrew Trimble and Stuart McCloskey, who have both had injury interrupted seasons, will seemingly have the summer to recuperate while Craig Gilroy's Test exclusion continues.
With Schmidt having described the winger's three-try cameo against Italy in last season's Six Nations as a "mixed bag", the 26-year-old has not been seen since in a green jersey.
Meanwhile, Ireland's Six Nations fixtures for the next two years have been confirmed with 2018 seeing a final round fixture against England for a second campaign in a row.
The St. Patrick's Day visit to Twickenham is one of two away trips Ireland will make in next season's championship, with the 2014 and '15 winners also opening up against France in Paris on February 3. In between the meetings with Les Bleus and Eddie Jones's side, they will take on Italy (February 10), Wales (February 24), and Scotland (March 10).
In both 2018 and '19, organisers have resisted calls from some to reduce the number of rest weeks in the championship from two to one, while France will take a game outside of Paris for the first time when they play Italy in February next year.
Ireland squad to take on USA and Japan:
Forwards: F Bealham, J Conan, C Healy, D Heffernan, D Kilcoyne, D Leavy, T O'Donnell, J O'Donoghue, A Porter, R Ruddock, J Ryan, J Ryan, N Scannell, D Toner, J Tracy, K Treadwell, J van der Flier.
Backs: J Carbery, A Conway, J Cooney, K Earls, P Jackson, K Marmion, L Marshall, LMcGrath, T O'Halloran, R O'Loughlin, G Ringrose, R Scannell, J Stockdale, S Zebo.
Six Nations Fixtures February 3/4: Wales v Scotland, Saturday 2.15pm, France v Ireland, Saturday 4.45pm, Italy v England, Sunday 3.00pm
February 10/11: Ireland v Italy, Saturday 2.15pm, England v Wales, Saturday 4.45pm, Scotland v France, Sunday 3.00pm.
February 23/24: France v Italy, Friday 8.00pm, Ireland v Wales, Saturday 2.15pm, Scotland v England, Saturday 4.45pm.
March 10/11: Ireland v Scotland, Saturday 2.15pm, France v England, Saturday 4.45pm, Wales v Italy, Sunday 3.00pm.
March 17: Italy v Scotland, Saturday 12.30pm, England v Ireland, Saturday 2.45pm, Wales v France, Saturday 5.00pm