Leinster winger Luke Fitzgerald looks set to miss Ireland’s Six Nations clash against Wales after being ruled out of the Wolfhounds’ squad to face England Saxons on Saturday.
The 24-year-old, who injured his neck against Cardiff in the RaboDirect PRO12 on January 7, was hoping to impress Ireland coach Declan Kidney and force his way into the squad – but his omission has opened the door for Munster winger Simon Zebo to stake his claim.
Zebo, who claimed a hat-trick of tries against Northampton in the Heineken Cup on Saturday, has been promoted from a group of six young players who were supposed to train with the senior squad prior to the Wales game.
Ulster prop Paddy McAllister and Leinster back Andrew Conway were among those six, but injuries have allowed Jack McGrath, Fionn Carr and Craig Gilroy to be drafted in to the training squad.
With no uncapped players named in the initial 24-man squad, Kidney has put faith in his experienced heads but has revealed some of the Wolfhounds are still in his plans as Leo Cullen continues to struggle with an Achilles complaint.
Without Fitzgerald Leinster secured a home Heineken Cup quarter-final with RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Cardiff Blues and Leinster coach Joe Schmidt admits his side are relishing the chance to defend their crown.
“We’re down to the last eight and we will need to go up another level because Cardiff will travel to Dublin in high spirits,” said Schmidt.
“Given our familiarity in the PRO12, we will know to expect a tough game on Easter weekend. They are a hugely impressive side, are well coached and have a physical set of forwards up front and a lot of skill and pace out wide.”