Ireland 22 man squad versus Italy

Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan has not taken any chances and named an experienced match 22 for the opening Six Nations clash with Italy at Croke Park on 2 February.

The one big surprise is the omission of Ulster’s in-form winger Tommy Bowe with Leinster’s Robert Kearney preferred. Fifteen players who were in the squad against Argentina in the last World Cup game in France have been retained.Girvan Dempsey and Andrew Trimble, who missed the game against the Pumas, are included in the match squad, but Johnny O’Connor, the one genuine openside flanker in the original 32-man squad, is omitted. Neil Best is another big name casualty from the World Cup while Bryan Young, Isaac Boss and Gavin Duffy will attempt to impress on the A side who face the England Saxons at Welford Road on 1 February.

The new faces are Tony Buckley, Jamie Heaslip, Bernard Jackman, Mick O’Driscoll and Kearney.

Ireland squad:
Forwards: Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Simon Easterby (Llanelli), John Hayes (Bruff/Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Clontarf/Leinster), Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster), Bernard Jackman (Clontarf/Leinster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Mick O’Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), Malcolm O’Kelly (St.Mary’s College/Leinster), David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster).

Backs: Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College/Leinster), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Robert Kearney (UCD/Leinster), Geordan Murphy (Leicester), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Wasps), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster).