Ulster has a strong representation on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad named on Wednesday, 10 of the current unbeaten Province’s players included, but there was disappointment at Ravenhill yesterday that scrumhalf, Paul Marshall, was not among the names.
The livewire number nine is arguably the in-form scrumhalf in Europe at present and having been named in the touring panel to New Zealand in the summer it was expected there would be a spot for him November Guinness Test series squad.
Marshall had been ther regular starter at number nine for Ulster, collecting the man of the match award in the Heineken Cup pool four victory over Castres when he scored two tries, but South African Ruan Pienaar’s return saw him start against Glasgow last week with Marshall reverting to the bench.
Conservative and under pressure Ireland boss, Declan Kidney has opted for Leinster’s Eoin Reddan and Munster’s Conor Murray in the 31-man squad.
Kidney still has one back to name, but it would be unlikely to see Marshall included at this stage.
For another Marshall in Ulster, centre Luke, there was to be good news yesterday when along with fellow rookie Iain Henderson, they were named as two of four uncapped players. Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne (loosehead) and Leinster’s hooker, Richard Strauss are the other two, the latter being the more experienced of the quad.
Rory Best, Tom Court, Stephen Ferris, Dan Tuohy, Chris Henry are all included in the pack while Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave and Tommy Bowe are among the backs.
Kidney has also left another vacant spot for a prop, with Ulster’s Declan Fitzpatrick a potential filler now he has returned from injury and is to play against Dragons in Newport in the PRO12.
The inclusion of Munster lock Paul O’Connell and his team mate Ronan O’Gara at outhalf is typical of the conservative approach by Kidney since the Rugby World Cup in 2011 when some feel he should be looking to develop
However, there are world ranking points available this November and Ireland’s goal is to maintain their position ahead of the 2015 World Cup draw.
Kidney admitted: “The underlying challenge for us is to work towards retaining and improving our ranking position ahead of the draw.
“While that is the end goal, our focus will be getting our preparations right to match the intensity of International games.”
Kidney is without fullback, Rob Kearney, who undergoes surgery today to a back issue.
Keith Earls would be one of the options to fill the place, but Ulster’s Tommy Bowe would also be a strong candidate.
Ireland start against South Africa on November 10 at the Aviva Stadium, followed by a Thomond Park clash with Fiji a week later and finishing against Argentina in Dublin on 24 November.
Ireland squad: Rory Best (Ulster), Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Tom Court (Ulster), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), John Muldoon (Connacht), Conor Murray (Munster), Mike McCarthy (Connacht), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster).