Kearney blow as Ireland name November squad
European player of the year ... Rob Kearney. Photo: Getty Images
DUBLIN: Ireland were dealt a blow for their November international series when Leinster full-back Rob Kearney was ruled out with a back injury that requires surgery.
Kearney, the reigning European player of the year, is expected to be out for 10 weeks, and so misses matches against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina.
Coach Declan Kidney named four new caps in the 31-strong squad: centre Luke Marshall, forward Iain Henderson, prop David Kilcoyne and hooker Richardt Strauss.
Strauss was born and raised in South Africa but is uncapped by the Springboks and is now eligible to play for Ireland based on his residency for the past three years whilst playing for Leinster.
"We have three incredibly competitive games ahead of us in November and while there have been quite a few injuries and niggles in the early part of the season, it has opened up opportunities for other players to step into the squad," Kidney said.
"There are world ranking points on offer, so the underlying challenge for us is to work towards retaining and improving our ranking position ahead of the Rugby World Cup pool draw.
"While that is the end goal, our focus will be getting our preparations right to match the intensity of international games."
Ireland also reshuffled their backroom staff, with current Munster assistant coach and former international Anthony Foley joining the national set-up as defence coach, allowing assistant coach Les Kiss to lead the attack and continue to coach the backline.
Foley will remain working with Munster outside of the international window. It was also confirmed that Leinster scrum coach, Greg Feek will continue providing his expertise to the Ireland team during competition time.
"I'm pleased that Anthony has taken up the offer of working with the squad to assist during this vital period in November," Kidney said.
"His previous experience of working with the team during the last Six Nations championship was important, but his own abilities and experience were central to bringing him onboard."
Ireland kick off their autumn series against South Africa on November 10, followed by Fiji and Argentina on the following weekends.
Squad: Rory Best (Ulster), Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Tom Court (Ulster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), John Muldoon (Connacht), Conor Murray (Munster), Mike McCarthy (Connacht), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), Paul O'Connell (Munster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster), Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster)