Duo return for Ireland Six Nations campaign

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has named Rory Best and Marcus Horan in his 44-man squad for the RBS 6 Nations.

Ulster hooker Best has not played this season having undergone surgery on a neck injury last summer, but has recently returned to contact training having made good progress in his recovery.

Munster prop Horan returns having missed out on the autumn internationals after undergoing a routine medical procedure for a minor heart ailment.

The loosehead has not played for his province since the Heineken Cup win over Benetton Treviso in October but played 80 minutes for Shannon in their AIB All-Ireland league clash with Dolphin on Saturday.

There are nine uncapped players in the squad with Ulster forwards Dan Tuohy and Declan Fitzpatrick among the new faces.

Lock forward Tuohy has been in commanding form for the Ravenhill side, particularly impressing in the Heineken Cup wins over Stade Francais and Edinburgh. Fitzpatrick is a more surprising selection given that he has only started two games for the province this season.

The other uncapped men are Leinster's Fergus McFadden, Kevin McLaughlin, Devin Toner and John Fogarty , Leicester wing Johne Murphy, Connacht prop Brett Wilkinson and powerful Ulster number eight Chris Henry.

Kidney will select the Ireland A squad to face England Saxons in Bath on January 31 from his 44-man panel, with players being brought in from outside the squad for that fixture. The A side will then face Scotland A at Ravenhill on February 5.

The head coach, who was unable to select wing Luke Fitzgerald and number eight Denis Leamy due to injury, admits his selection was made with one eye on developing his squad ahead of the 2011 World Cup.

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."

Key figures from last season's first Grand Slam success in 61 years, such as talismanic captain Brian O'Driscoll and second-row Paul O'Connell, will look to try to guide Kidney's side to the first back-to-back Slams since France achieved the feat in 1997 and 1998.

Fly-halves Ronan O'Gara and Jonathan Sexton are set to provide Kidney with his most troubling selection headache after the precociously-talented Sexton took his chance to impress in the autumn victories over Fiji and South Africa.

Competition will also be tight at scrum-half, with Peter Stringer, Isaac Boss, Tomas O'Leary and Eoin Reddan all earning places in the squad.

Leinster loosehead prop Cian Healy will look to try to nail down his position in the side after filling Horan's shoes admirably during the autumn.

Veteran tighthead John Hayes, set to win his 100th cap during the tournament, is also included, although Kidney may be tempted to give the likes of Ulster's Tom Court and Leinster's Mike Ross a run bearing in mind Munster forward Hayes will be 37 when the World Cup comes around.

Although Kidney knows his squad have a shot at creating history, the former schoolteacher insists they are fully focused on their opening clash with Italy at Croke Park on February 6.

"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." he said.

"The focus is very much on our game against Italy in a fortnight's time and we are preparing for that first challenge".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of her eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments