DECLAN KIDNEY WILL this afternoon name his squad for the upcoming RBS Six Nations championships.
And the Ireland head coach looks to be without another big name this morning.
Leinster skipper Leo Cullen will miss the entire championship, according to this morning’s Irish Daily Star (print edition), due to an achilles injury.
The second row will reportedly undergo surgery and faces up to two-and-a-half months in the recovery room.
The news comes of Cullen’s injury course days after Ulster’s Darren Cave was ruled out with an ankle injury, while Munster’s openside Niall Ronan is out with cruciate damage.
Kidney’s usual captain Brian O’Driscoll is the most high-profile absentee of course, after he went under the knife himself. The stand-in skipper Paul O’Connell is available despite a knee knock he picked up during last week’s win over Castres in the Heineken Cup.
Former Ireland international Hugo McNeill says today’s announcement will show how thin players are on the ground for Kidney.
“It highlights how vulnerable we are,” he told Darren Frehill on RTÉ radio earlier. ”We obviously have injuries to key players – Brian [O'Driscoll] is out – if we were to lose two or three other players it really makes a massive impact on the team.
“I think the squad announcement is interesting but not crucial to what Ireland will do. I’ve re-watched Welsh game an awful lot recently and the thing that came out was that we had an awful lot of ball, and an awful lot of territory. But it wasn’t used.
“There wasn’t a shape and structure to the backline to put the ball through the phases until the play opened up. Now, that’s particularly important when you have Brian O’Driscoll out of the backline. Not only for his brilliane but he’s scored – even going back to the Grand Slam year – a lot of very intelligent tries.
“If you’re going to want to plug that gap, it’s really important you have a shape and structure. Whether you’re going to bring in a specialist centre or as reported you could move someone off another position.”
Ireland begin their Six Nations championship bid with a rematch of that heart-breaking Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Wales. Warren Gatland brings his side to the Aviva Stadium on 5 February.
We’ll have the squad as it’s released this lunchtime.