Ulster's sidelined captain, Rory Best, is the shock inclusion in Declan Kidney’s 44-man squad for Ireland’s defence of last season’s Grand Slam.
The squad includes nine Ulster players and former Ravenhill favourite, Tommy Bowe, now with Ospreys.
The initial prognosis was that Best, who underwent neck surgery last summer and has not kicked a ball in anger since, would be out for the entire 2009/10 campaign.
A fortnight ago, however, came the announcement that the hooker was recovering well ahead of schedule and might even be available for action in Ulster colours after the RSB Six Nations Championship.
He has now resumed contact training and yesterday came the news that he was in the Irish squad for the series which opens against Italy at Croke Park on Saturday, February 6.
Best’s inclusion is a huge boost for the player, his province and Ireland for with Munster’s Jerry Flannery injured the defending champions are minus last season’s first-choice hooker.
The Ulster players include uncapped trio Chris Henry, Dan Tuohy and Declan Fitzpatrick.
Scrum-half Isaac Boss and winger Andrew Trimble are two whose form for Ulster has earned them recalls, while loose head Tom Court’s retention after the Autumn series is no surprise.
Nor were Stephen Ferris and Paddy Wallace in any doubt.
IRELAND Squad (2010 RBS 6 Nations Championship):
Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster), Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster), Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ian Dowling (Shannon/Munster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)*, Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster), John Fogarty (De La Salle Palmerston/Leinster)*, John Hayes (Bruff/Munster), Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster)*, Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster), Shane Horgan (Boyne/Leinster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Shane Jennings (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster), Fergus McFadden (UCD/Leinster)*, Kevin McLaughlin (UCD/Leinster)*, Johne Murphy (Leicester)*, Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster), Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Tomas O'Leary (Dolphin/Munster)
Sean O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)*, Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster)*, David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster), Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht)*.