Kidney includes nine new faces in Ireland squad..
Ireland boss Declan Kidney admitted he had one eye on the 2011 World Cup after announcing nine uncapped players in his squad for this year's RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Ulster trio Dan Tuohy, Declan Fitzpatrick and Chris Henry along with Leinster quartet John Fogarty, Devin Toner, Fergus McFadden and Kevin McLaughlin are included as are Leicester winger Johne Murphy and Connacht’s Brett Wilkinson.
Kidney’s front-row options have been boosted by the return Munster prop Marcus Horan and Ulster hooker Rory Best from injury while Shane Jennings is back in the squad after serving a 12-week ban.
And having blooded several new faces in the autumn series, Kidney wants to continue to give his squad as many opportunities to shine with the World Cup in New Zealand just around the corner.
He said: “When naming the squad, we had three main considerations, with the most important being the opening game against Italy, followed by the A games and further down the line with the Rugby World Cup.
“Building a squad has always been a priority for us and the work done during the first half of the season means there is a little more experience accumulated in the squad then we had a couple of months ago.
“While there were new players who gained vital experience during the Guinness Series, the goal is to keep that experience ticking over with all the players who need international level game time.
“By having the A games early, it allows us to get people on the pitch so they can keep their own performance levels up as we progress through to the later stages of the championship.
“The aim is now to continue that while trying to increase the competitiveness that we need for the Italy game. The provinces have all been in good form, making selection even more competitive, but we will need that for the big challenges that are ahead for the group over the next couple of weeks.
“The focus is very much on our game against Italy in a fortnight's time and we are preparing for that first challenge.”
Ireland Squad (44):
Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster), Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster), Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ian Dowling (Shannon/Munster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster), John Fogarty (De La Salle Palmerston/Leinster), John Hayes (Bruff/Munster), Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster, Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster), Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster), Shane Horgan (Boyne/Leinster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster), Shane Jennings (St.Mary's College/Leinster), Robert Kearney (UCD/Leinster), Fergus McFadden (UCD/Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (UCD/Leinster), Johne Murphy (Leicester), Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster), Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Tomas O'Leary (Dolphin/Munster), Sean O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Jonathan Sexton (St.Mary's College/Leinster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Dan Touhy (Ballymena/Ulster), David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster), Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht)