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Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt turns to Ulster stars

By Michael Sadlier

Despite the pain of last Friday's PRO12 semi-final defeat to Glasgow, there is still work to be done and eight Ulster players have been named in the Ireland squad for Thursday's showpiece meeting with the Barbarians at Thomond Park (7.45pm).

Chris Henry makes a welcome return to national involvement after last autumn's health issues while Craig Gilroy and Paddy Jackson have also been notably called up and they are joined in the 27-man squad by fellow Ulster players Robbie Diack, Rob Herring, Dan Tuohy, Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall.

The Ireland squad ­­- made up entirely of Leinster and Ulster players - will be skippered by Leinster's Jamie Heaslip and gives Joe Schmidt an early look at a number of World Cup hopefuls. The Barbarians have also brought in an Ulster player to their squad with Ruan Pienaar joining some stellar names including Brad Thorn, Joe Rokocoko and Wasps-bound George Smith.

Meanwhile, top referee Nigel Owens will be taking charge of Saturday night's Guinness PRO12 final between Munster and Glasgow Warriors at the Kingspan.

This will be Owens' third final in the middle, his previous showdowns being last season's clash when Leinster defeated Glasgow and the one in 2011 which saw Munster overcome the Blues.

Finally, the Ireland Under-20 squad for next month's World Rugby Championship has been named and includes six Ulster-based players.

Sam Arnold, Lorcan Dow, Zack McCall, Jack Owens, Jacob Stockdale and Alex Thompson are all off to Parma, Italy.

Ireland squad v Barbarians: M Bent, J Conan, R Diack, T Furlong, J Heaslip (capt), C Henry, R Herring, J McGrath, B Marshall, J Murphy, M Ross, R Ruddock, R Strauss, D Toner, D Tuohy; C Gilroy, P Jackson, D Kearney, R Kearney, C Kelleher, S McCloskey, L McGrath, I Madigan, L Marshall, C O'Shea, E Reddan, N Reid

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