End of an era as Kearney left out
Rob Kearney has become the first major casualty of the Andy Farrell era after the new Ireland head coach opted to leave the veteran full-back out of the 45-man group who will gather for a one-day camp in Dublin this weekend.
Kearney has lost his place in the Leinster team to the in-form Jordan Larmour and his omission from the training squad suggests that Farrell is looking to move on from the 33-year-old.
Kearney will be hoping to see enough game time over the coming weeks to force his way back into the equation before Farrell names his first Six Nations squad in late January.
Other notable absentees include Jordi Murphy, Jack Carty and Sean Cronin, as well as the likes of Tadhg Beirne, John Ryan and Kieran Marmion, who are all currently injured.
Farrell has called up eight uncapped players with Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade, Leinster’s Ronan Kelleher, Caelan Doris, Max Deegan, Will Connors, Jamison Gibson-Park, and Ulster duo Billy Burns and Tom O’Toole all looking to make an impression.
Despite currently being sidelined with a knee injury, Johnny Sexton is included, which adds to the growing feeling that he will take over as Ireland captain.
Sexton has been linked with a big money move to Top 14 leaders Lyon, but the out-half is understood to be keen to see out his career with Leinster and Ireland.
There is also a welcome return to the Ireland squad for Devin Toner, after being surprisingly dropped for the World Cup.
“We have limited opportunities across the busy provincial season to bring a broad group like this together but this 24-hour window will allow us to plant a few seeds,” Farrell said.
All eight uncapped players are unlikely to make the cut for the Six Nations, but for the likes of Connors and O’Toole, this is a great opportunity to soak up as much information as possible in what will be their first experience of senior international rugby.
For other youngsters like Doris and Kelleher, they will have genuine aspirations of making their Ireland debut come the Spring.
The door will still be open for the likes of Kearney and Murphy to force their way back in, but as a new dawn beckons, there is plenty of dissect from Farrell’s first squad.
Jordan Larmour’s reign as Ireland’s full-back draws ever closer.
The 22-year-old has been superb this season and has replaced Kearney in Leinster’s starting XV. He is set to do the same with Ireland too, while Dave Kearney and Mike Haley have been rewarded for their good form with a call-up.
Ireland training squad
Connacht: Bundee Aki, Caolin Blade, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan, Quinn Roux.
Leinster: Ross Byrne, Will Connors, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Jamison Gibson Park, Cian Healy, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Ronan Kelleher, Jordan Larmour, Luke McGrath, Andrew Porter, Garry Ringrose, Rhys Ruddock, James Ryan, Jonathan Sexton, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier.
Munster: Joey Carbery, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Mike Haley, Dave Kilcoyne, Jean Kleyn, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Niall Scannell, Rory Scannell, CJ Stander.
Ulster: Will Addison, Billy Burns, John Cooney, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Stuart McCloskey, Marty Moore, Tom O’Toole, Jacob Stockdale.