herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Kidney does as he sees fit

Fitz and Cullen out as Toner and Murphy called for series

It was a day like any other, except for Leinster's Devin Toner and Munster's Johne Murphy -- the two uncapped players named in Declan Kidney's 34-player squad for the four-match November international series.

Toner and Murphy have profited from their solid starts to the season as Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has braced his side for a gruelling autumn, whereas, others -- most glaringly Leinster openside Shane Jennings and Leicester Tigers captain Geordan Murphy -- have paid the price.

Ireland face South Africa, Samoa, New Zealand and Argentina on successive weekends at the Aviva Stadium as the countdown to next year's World Cup begins.

Coach Declan Kidney said: "It will be great to be back playing in the home of Irish Rugby and the atmosphere, from what I have seen so far, rivals the old stadium.

"It is going to be a demanding month for the squad and the first time we have played four games in the Guinness series.

"We felt it was important to have at least 30 fit players to choose from in terms of setting the foundations for November, and it was better for those who picked up knocks to be assessed back in the provinces."

There is every chance that Leinster's Luke Fitzgerald and Leo Cullen will be drip-fed back into the squad for full-contact training, depending on how Fitzgerald progresses from injury and how much game time Cullen can get under his belt over the next two weeks in the Magners League. However, Jerry Flannery's participation looks a little more bleak after he suffered a recurrence of his calf injury in Saturday's 45-18 victory over Toulon -- his only Munster appearance this season.

"When they have the all clear, (they can) come back into the squad. Jerry (Flannery) and Luke (Fitzgerald) are in that position, as are fellas like Tomas (O'Leary) and Leo (Cullen), who may well come back into the mix.

"We need everybody in a position to be able to contribute in training and while we may well leave a window for those coming back, all the players in the squad deserve their chance."

There is also no place in Kidney's plan for Connacht flyer Fionn Carr, even though he does see fit to include Connacht full-back Gavin Duffy and retain the services of veteran tighthead prop John Hayes, 36.

An update on Flannery is expected soon, but Fitzgerald's potential recovery offers some positive news.

After he damaged his hip during Leinster's 25-23 victory over Saracens, he was omitted from the national squad.

However, Leinster revealed that he is expected to resume training tomorrow after an X-ray confirmed he had only suffered bruising in the Wembley victory.

Keith Earls, Rory Best, Stephen Ferris, Denis Leamy, Sean O'Brien and Donnacha Ryan return after missing the summer tour through injury.

Best's fitness will prove crucial as Flannery's involvement is doubtful, and only the inexperienced Sean Cronin and Damien Varley can offer cover at hooker.

Leinster lock Cullen and Munster scrum-half O'Leary will be examined again during the autumn as they continue their return from shoulder and thumb injuries.

IRELAND SQUAD (34) for the November International series: Rory Best (Ulster), Isaac Boss (Leinster), Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Tony Buckley (Munster), Tom Court (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Connacht), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Gavin Duffy (Connacht), Keith Earls (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Shane Horgan (Leinster), John Hayes (Munster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Marcus Horan (Munster), Robert Kearney (Leinster), Denis Leamy (Munster), John Muldoon (Connacht), Johne Murphy (Munster), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster), Mick O'Driscoll (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Peter Stringer (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Damien Varley (Munster), David Wallace (Munster),

Paddy Wallace (Ulster).

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