Kev ready to step up for Ireland
Kevin McLaughlin could be handed a dream debut against Italy on Saturday, with Stephen Ferris a major doubt for Ireland's Six Nations opener with a knee injury.
Ireland are overwhelming favourites to kick off their Grand Slam defence with a win, and coach Declan Kidney may not wish to risk Ferris ahead of the crunch trip to France the following week.
That leaves Leinster blindside flanker McLaughlin — a Dubliner who has sprung to prominence following the departure of Rocky Elsom — in line to win his first cap.
Ferris picked up the injury playing for Ulster in Bath 10 days ago and only joined the Ireland camp yesterday. Brian O'Driscoll and Donncha O'Callaghan also sat out training — although both are expected to feature.
“The guy we are more concerned about is Stephen Ferris,” confirmed Ireland manager Paul McNaughton. “We think he's still available for selection, but we're more concerned about him than the other two.”