Wolfhounds 'can raise hands for senior selection'
Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss has provided the Ireland Wolfhounds squad with added incentive ahead of Friday’s meeting with England Saxons by revealing that those who perform well will be in the mix for a starting place against Wales in the opening Six Nations game.
Luke Fitzgerald, Andrew Trimble, Tom Court and Isaac Boss are among the more experienced players named in the Wolfhounds squad who will feel they are worthy of a place among Kidney’s first choice.
The squad will today enjoy a ‘down day’ at their training camp in Carton House but Kiss is pleased with how preparations are going so far and is excited to see which players raise their hand for selection on Friday night.
“We're really happy with what we have there and we'll finalise the team on Thursday. It's a similar time-frame, I think, to the Saxons finalising their team,” Kiss revealed.
"But the preparation has been very handy. The players have asked for it themselves, the best players in the country are in there and it's a real nice, handy feeling around the place.
"The Wolfhounds opportunity that comes on Friday is similar to Fiji in November. It’s an opportunity for guys to put their hand up.
"Anyone who is in that squad is going to be considered for the Welsh squad the next week."
The Wolfhounds will be out to avenge the 23-17 defeat suffered at the hands of the Saxons at Sandy Park last season.
Among those who started that game were Chris Henry and Simon Zebo who this year will be vying for starting places on the senior Six Nations team.
Kiss is hopeful that more players will follow the likes of Zebo and Henry on Friday night by proving their comfort at international level.
An area of particular interest to the coach is flyhalf where Ireland have a number of exciting an versatile options coming through the ranks.
"We’ve got Ian (Madigan), who can cover fullback and also fly-half. We’ve got Paddy (Jackson) and Ian Keatley too," Kiss said.
"Ian actually covered 12 for us in the lead-up to the World Cup when we played Connacht and did a good job. There’s nice flexibility in around there.
"I see this game as a real opportunity for players to place themselves in the shop window in terms of the 6 Nations squad."
One player who has made a real impression this season is 19-year-old Connacht fullback Robbie Henshaw.
The Marist College graduate could be in line to make his international debut over the Six Nations and Kiss admits the youngster has had a phenomenal season.
"We’re really excited about his (Henshaw’s) development. He had to step into the breach when they (Connacht) lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year.
"When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job."