Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll are set to resume their midfield partnership as the former has returned to the Ireland squad.
D’Arcy has missed the better part of a year’s rugby with a broken arm, buy coach Declan Kidney has decided to reinstate the veteran centre for this season’s Six Nations. Luke Fitzgerald will also compete for the 12 shirt, but D’Arcy’s existing partnership with O’Driscoll at club and national level is likely to give him the edge.
Ireland begin their campaign by taking on France at Croke Park on 7 February.
“Last November was mission accomplished from a ranking point of view and the win against Argentina, although not the prettiest game anybody may have seen, was vitally important,” Kidney said.
“The France game is another step above that as they can bring so much to their game and are incredibly dangerous in this tournament.”
Ireland Squad - Backs: Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/WAL), Ian Dowling (Munster), Girvan Dempsey (Leinster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Shane Horgan (Leinster), Robert Kearney (Leinster), Geordan Murphy (Leicester), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Munster), Tomas O’Leary (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Wasps/ENG), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Peter Stringer (Munster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster)
Forwards: Rory Best (Ulster), Ryan Caldwell (Ulster), Bob Casey (London Irish/ENG), Tom Court (Ulster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Jerry Flannery (Munster), John Hayes (Munster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Marcus Horan (Munster), Bernard Jackman (Leinster), Shane Jennings (Leinster), Denis Leamy (Munster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Mick O’Driscoll (Munster), Malcolm O’Kelly (Leinster), Alan Quinlan (Munster), Mike Ross (Harlequins/ENG), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), David Wallace (Munster)