Schmidt unveils first squad
Joe Schmidt (Getty Images)
Dublin - Joe Schmidt have named three uncapped players in his first squad since becoming Ireland coach when he unveiled a 34-man party on Wednesday for next month's Tests at home to Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.
Leinster's Dace Kearney and Jack McGrath were called up alongside Munster's James Coughlan with the likes of Stephen Ferris, Richardt Strauss, Tommy O'Donnell, Jordi Murphy and Simon Zebo joined on the injured list last weekend by Donnacha Ryan (knee) and Iain Henderson (toe).
As expected, veteran centre Brian O'Driscoll, in what the star midfielder has indicated will be his final season before retirement, was included.
So too was Jonathan Sexton, with the Paris-based Racing Metro fly-half -- one of the heroes of this year's British and Irish Lions series win in Australia -- the only player at an overseas club in the squad.
For Schimdt, who guided Irish province Leinster to two European Cup triumphs before succeeding Declan Kidney as Ireland coach, the matches will give him his first chance to assess the strength of the national squad in the run-up to the 2015 World Cup in England.
And the final match of the November series against his native New Zealand, the reigning world champions and a team Ireland have never beaten in 27 previous attempts, promises to be a particularly stiff test.
"The squad combines players who have shown form in the domestic season mixed with those who have a proven record at international level," Schmidt said in an Irish Rugby Football Union statement.
"As always there were some very difficult decisions. Some players have had limited opportunity to impress due to injury and others have performed very well and it was difficult to leave them out."
Isaac Boss (Leinster), Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), David Kearney (Leinster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro/FRA)
Stephen Archer (Munster), Rory Best (Ulster), James Coughlan (Munster), Tom Court (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Mike McCarthy (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Paul O'Connell (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Mike Sherry (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster)
Fixtures (all at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, all times CAT):
November 9: Ireland v Samoa (19:45)
November 16: Ireland v Australia (19:45)
November 24: Ireland v New Zealand (16:00)