Ulster's Stuart McCloskey left out of Ireland squad for tour of South Africa
Ireland have overlooked Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey and Bordeaux-bound fly-half Ian Madigan for next month's three-Test tour to South Africa.
Uncapped duo Connacht lock Quinn Roux and Ulster flanker Sean Reidy have won selection to a 32-man squad but Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell has also failed to make the cut.
Madigan’s omission backs up previous statements from both head coach Joe Schmidt and performance director David Nucifora that moving abroad will make winning Test selection tougher for Ireland’s top stars.
Leinster star Madigan is the first in a while to test the theory, and his omission appears to be an immediate by-product of his impending switch to France.
“Touring South Africa will be arduous to say the least so we’ve attempted to prioritise players who are currently as close to full fitness as possible,” said Ireland head coach Schmidt.
“In what is always a difficult balancing act, we’ve taken a long-term view with a number of players who need a rest or will benefit from a full pre-season.”
It remains to be seen how that long-term view will manifest itself for Madigan, who could remain on the periphery of the Test arena during his stint in France, and for McCloskey, who this week committed himself to Ulster until 2019.
Ireland will fly out to South Africa on Sunday, June 5, basing themselves in Cape Town ahead of the first Test at Newlands on Saturday, June 11.
Ireland will bid for their first-ever victory on South African soil this summer, boosted by the impact of new defence coach Andy Farrell, who has been able to kick-start his role since officially starting work in April.
Johnny Sexton and Paddy Jackson will travel as Ireland’s main fly-half options, with Ulster centre Stuart Olding able to slot in at 10 if required.
Ireland must battle the ultra-physical Springboks without injured key men Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo.
Ulster hooker Rory Best continues as captain, with Jamie Heaslip retained as his deputy, while powerhouse lock Iain Henderson’s return to fitness after long-term injury will certainly boost Ireland’s physicality.