The inclusion of six Ulster players in the Ireland ‘A’ squad for Sunday’s clash with England Saxons in Bath will have come as very good news for four of them, a disappointment for one and a body blow for the other individual.
Rory Best will be delighted to be in the frame, his recovery after surgery on a neck injury having been much quicker than had been expected. Initially it was thought he would miss the entire season.
The three others who will be happy are Darren Cave, Ian Humphreys and Ryan Caldwell.
Cave has had a roller-coaster few days, for having scored a great try for Ulster in their Heineken Cup match against Bath at The Rec — the venue for Sunday’s England Saxons-Ireland ‘A’ clash — he and his colleagues then experienced the pain of failure to qualify for either of the European ventures.
Having gained his first two full international caps during the Lions-depleted Irish squad’s 2009 summer tour of the USA and Canada, this latest call to arms will have assured Cave that he is on Declan Kidney’s radar.
Humphreys will be pleased, too, and the timing is good for him.
Despite being Ulster’s leading points-scorer this season he was omitted from the line-up for last weekend’s date with Bath. That will have been hard to stomach, as must the fact that he was not introduced from the bench.
Having lined out for Ireland ‘A’ against Tonga and Argentina ‘A’ in the autumn, his on-going inclusion should have helped ease some of last weekend’s pain.
Having slipped down the Ulster pecking order, with Dan Tuohy and Ed O’Donoghue emerging as Brian McLaughlin’s first-choice second row partnership, Caldwell would be delighted to feature at The Rec on Sunday.
Last weekend on the same pitch the big lock, who faced Argentina ‘A’ at the Tallaght Stadium in November, had to make do with deputising for O’Donoghue for the last 15 minutes.
The disappointed player will be scrum-half, Isaac Boss, who has had the Midas touch of late.
The undisputed Heineken Cup man-of-the-match against Edinburgh on the night on which he made his 100th Ulster appearance in which he scored a great try and made another, much involved in last weekend’s victory in Bath and now confirmed as being on his way to European champions Leinster as soon as the season ends, one imagines he may well have had an eye on Ireland versus Italy on February 6 rather than a return to The Rec with the second string this Sunday.
And while inclusion in the latter does not necessarily mean exclusion from the former, neither can it be interpreted as a positive.
The victim of the body blow? Paddy Wallace.
During the autumn series he started against Australia and South Africa, in between times making an appearance as a replacement against Fiji.
But an ankle injury saw him limp off against the Springboks in the last of those Tests and his recovery from that has been slow.
Those fitness problems, coupled with the return to top form of Leinster’s Gordon D’Arcy, have seen him drop a rung on the ladder, for which reason he will be keen to play particularly well on Sunday, assuming he is selected.