Leinster duo get chance to stake claim
Furlong and Conan only uncapped players picked
Leinster tight-head Tadhg Furlong and number eight Jack Conan are the two uncapped men in the Ireland extended squad of 45 to begin preparations for the World Cup.
There is every reason to believe that the Wexford tight-head can make a serious stab at winning what appears to be a one-on-one contest with Michael Bent.
However, the doubt surrounding the recovery of Cian Healy from neck surgery makes Bent's dual-purpose ability to mind both sides of the scrum a decided advantage.
The back row comes second only to the wing slots in competitiveness with Conan a rank outsider to make the trimmed down official 31-man squad.
Eight-into-four won't go for the wing spots and the quality of the competition can be measured by the simple fact that Ireland's 2014 Player of the Year Andrew Trimble is no better than 50-50 to outstrip Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls, Fergus McFadden, Simon Zebo, Dave Kearney and Craig Gilroy.
The biggest available casualty is Munster out-half Ian Keatley, his form at the end of the season suffering just as Paddy Jackson showed real signs of maturity at Ulster.
The persistence of Donnacha Ryan to launch a comeback from long-term injury is rewarded, possibly as the back-five roaming role in the aftermath of Rhys Ruddock's injury.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt confirmed Ruddock fractured his forearm in The Tbilisi Cup.
The Leinster flanker "would have been selected," according to Schmidt, were it not for his misfortune to suffer a second such injury and a third operation in the space of seven months.
There will be great disappointment felt by Leinster lock Mike McCarthy, flanker Dominic Ryan and Munster props Stephen Archer and James Cronin as well as Connacht's late-charging Dennis Buckley.
There are positive stories from the Tbilisi Cup as Conan, Leinster centre Noel Reid and Ulster hooker Rob Herring all make the cut.
"The squad selection has been a long process with some very tight decisions," issued Schmidt in a statement yesterday evening.
"Some injured players who are getting close to full fitness have been included while others have missed out due to prolonged absence or lack of opportunity to demonstrate their full Test Match readiness."
Ireland will host three Open Sessions during its World Cup training schedule. The first will take place in The Sportsground, Galway on Tuesday 14 July, the second in Cork on Wednesday 29 July and the final one at The RDS, Dublin on Tuesday 8th September.
IRELAND WORLD CUP TRAINING SQUAD.
Forwards (23): R Best (Ulster), M Bent, J Conan*, S Cronin, T Furlong*, C Healy, J Heaslip (all Leinster), I Henderson, C Henry, R Herring (all Ulster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), J McGrath, M Moore, J Murphy, S O'Brien (all Leinster), P O'Connell (capt), T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony (all Munster), M Ross (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster), R Strauss, D Toner (both Leinster), D Tuohy (Ulster);
Backs (22): I Boss (Leinster), T Bowe (Ulster), D Cave (both Ulster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster), C Gilroy (Ulster), R Henshaw (Connacht), P Jackson (Ulster), F Jones (Munster), D Kearney, R Kearney, I Madigan (all Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), F McFadden (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), J Payne (Ulster), E Reddan, N Reid (both Leinster), J Sexton (Racing Metro 92), A Trimble (Ulster), S Zebo (Munster).
*Denotes uncapped player
2015 GUINNESS SUMMER SERIES FIXTURES
Wales v IRELAND, Millennium Stadium, Saturday 8 August, 2015, KO: 14:30
IRELAND v Scotland, Aviva Stadium, Saturday 15 August, 2015, KO: 17:00
IRELAND v Wales, Aviva Stadium, Saturday 29 August, 2015, KO: 14:30
England v IRELAND, Twickenham Stadium, Saturday 5 September, 2015, KO: 14:30.