Ireland coach Declan Kidney has freshened things up and added new blood to his Six Nations squad ahead of Sunday’s opening fixture against Wales.
Munster wing sensation Simon Zebo has been joined in a 32-man senior squad by Dan Tuohy, Eoin O’Malley, Peter O’Mahony, Denis Hurley, Chris Henry, Rhys Ruddock, David Kearney and Brett Wilkinson.
Zebo, Kearney -- brother of Rob -- O’Malley, O’Mahony and Wilkinson are all uncapped.
Leinster captain Leo Cullen is missing as expected after he opted to undergo surgery on troublesome ankle injuries.
Kidney will name his team to play Wales after a training session on Wednesday morning.
Zebo and Tuohy impressed the coach when they played for the Irish Wolfhounds in the defeat to the English A team last Saturday but are unlikely to feature on Sunday.
Captain Brian O’Driscoll, David Wallace and Jerry Flannery are still long-term injury absentees from the Irish squad, while the English based Geordan Murphy and Tony Buckley have not been included.
The Ireland squad is -- forwards: R. Best (Ulster), T. Bowe (Ospreys), T. Court (Ulster), S. Cronin (Leinster), S. Ferris (Ulster), C. Healy (Leinster), J. Heaslip (Leinster), C. Henry (Ulster), S. Jennings (Leinster), S. O’Brien (Leinster), D. O’Callaghan (Munster), P. O’Connell (Munster), P. O’Mahony (Munster), M. Ross (Leinster), D. Ryan (Munster), R. Ruddock (Leinster), D. Tuohy (Ulster), B. Wilkinson (Connacht).
Backs: G. D’Arcy (Leinster), K. Earls (Munster), D. Hurley (Munster), R. Kearney (Leinster), D. Kearney (Leinster), F. McFadden (Leinster), C. Murray (Munster), R. O’Gara (Munster), E. O’Malley (Leinster), E. Reddan (Leinster), J. Sexton (Leinster), A. Trimble (Ulster), P. Wallace (Ulster), S. Zebo (Munster).
GOLF: Rory McIlroy is up to second in the world rankings after finishing second to England’s Robert Rock in the Abu Dhabi Championship when a second round penalty, for brushing sand away from his ball, effectively cost him the title. Fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell scored a final round hole-in-one as he finished third . . .
BOXING: Olympic hero Kenny Egan will meet Joe Ward in next Friday’s Irish Elite Championships light-heavyweight final at the National Stadium in Dublin after both fighters won their semis in convincing fashion last weekend . . .
BOXING: Barry McGuigan’s protégé Carl Frampton has successfully defended his Commonwealth super-bantamweight title with an impressive seventh-round stoppage against Kris Hughes in London . ..
RACING: Jockey Ruby Walsh is to appeal against a three day ban imposed for interference at Cheltenham on Saturday when he partnered Pearl Swan to victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial . . .
RUGBY: Ulster look likely to replace head coach Brian McLaughlin when his contract expires at the end of the season according to reports . . .
GOLF: Darren Clarke has parted company with Irish caddy John Mulroney less than a year after they won the British Open . . .
RACING: Hurricane Fly made it two Irish Champion Hurdle wins in a row with a brilliant win at Leopardstown on Sunday . . .
RUGBY: Ireland’s A team went down 23-17 to England in Exeter last Saturday night.
Celtic Stars Wanted
Celtic strikers Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper are wanted on the Russian front, but boss Neil Lennon is in no mood to sell.
Top scorer Hooper has been linked with a move to Zenit St. Petersburg or CSKA Moscow while Lokomotiv Moscow wants Irish international Stokes.
Lennon could afford to sell one of his strikers after signing Polish striker Pawel Brozek on loan from Turkish side Trabzonspor on Monday.
But the Russian clubs are in no rush as their transfer window doesn’t close until the end of February.
Stokes made the headlines again on Sunday with two goals as Celtic beat Falkirk 3-1 in the Scottish League Cup semifinal to leave the Bhoys within touching distance of the first silverware of the season.
They will now meet Kilmarnock in the final on March 18, but Stokes is refusing to talk of a treble even as Celtic enjoy a Premier Division lead over Rangers.
“I’m not going to talk about the treble. The gaffer has said enough about that. We are going to put the final on the back-burner now and just concentrate on the games that we have coming up,” said Stokes on a day that saw Scott Brown also on the scoresheet.
“I am just delighted with the result and happy with the goals as well. It was a good team performance. We didn’t take our chances in the first half but we made up for it in the second half.”
Lennon, meanwhile, has been linked with Irish winger Johnny Hayes, available on a free transfer when his contract at Caledonian Thistle expires at the end of the season.
Celtic youngster James Keatings has joined St. Johnstone on loan until the end of the season.
IRELAND will warm-up for Euro 2012 with a home fixture against Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 26, and an away match in Hungary on June 4.
The FAI have also confirmed that the team will be based at a training camp in Italy for a week before the tournament.
FAI chief executive John Delaney is also to ask UEFA for more tickets for Irish fans ahead of the finals.
“I am hopeful that we might get some extra tickets as we get nearer to the Euros. We have made representations. We have got 6,000 tickets per game, they’ll all go,” said Delaney.
“We are going to try to secure some extra tickets for the supporters because it is in our interest and everybody’s interest to get as many Irish people into those three games as possible to encourage the team and get behind the team.”
The proposed friendly with England is now likely to happen in November.
Delaney has also announced reduced ticket prices for the February friendly against the Czech Republic in Dublin.
Not for Sale
WOLVES manager Mick McCarthy has said he would be crackers to sell striker Kevin Doyle or winger Stephen Hunt.
Both Irish players were linked with deadline day moves away from McCarthy’s Wolves on Tuesday.
Everton and Blackburn were both rumored to be interested in Doyle while Celtic were said to be considering an offer for Hunt.
McCarthy was in no mood to sell either player, however, when he spoke before the transfer window closed in England at midnight on Tuesday.
He said, “Whether there is interest or there isn’t interest in Kevin, it doesn’t matter because he is going nowhere. I would really be crackers to sell Doyle or Stephen Hunt. I’m not crackers.”
SLIGO Rovers have re-signed goalkeeper Richard Brush from Shamrock Rovers and awarded new contracts to ‘keeper Ciaran Kelly and midfielder John Dillon . . .
SUNDERLAND winger James McClean has moved closer to a first Irish cap after FIFA confirmed they are processing the paperwork on his switch from Northern Ireland . . .
FORMER Irish midfielder Colin Healy has returned home to Cork City after his spell in England with Ipswich Town . . .
DERRY City defender and former Celtic trainee Daniel Lafferty has moved to English Championship outfit Burnley . . .
CORK City striker Graham Cummins has signed for English Division One side Preston North End . . .
MIDFIELDER Peter McMahon has moved to Bohs from Drogheda United . . .
IRISH striker Andy Keogh has moved to Millwall from Wolves.