Five players in line to join Ireland's Six Nations squad 4 days ago

Five players in line to join Ireland's Six Nations squad

There is a positive update on Jamie Heaslip too.

Ireland are off to Athlone, this week, for a spot of training with the Under 20s squad in the run-in to the Wales game on February 24.

Joe Schmidt is set to retain 20 to 22 of his original Six Nations squad and some will only take a light part in proceedings at Buccaneers RFC.

Looking further ahead than the current championship, there is good news in the shape of former Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip. The Leinster No.8 is hoping to return to action by the end of March, according to The Herald's Des Berry, and he has set his sights on the April 1 Champions Cup clash with Saracens.

Heaslip has not played a game in almost a year. His last outing was for Ireland against Wales, in Cardiff, while he was forced to withdraw from the 2017 Six Nations finalé when a back issue arose.

Focusing on the here and now, however, Schmidt may have lost Robbie Henshaw to injury but he has some decent options getting back to full fitness. While Craig Gilroy, Darren Sweetnam and [wishful thinking] Simon Zebo are all ripe for picking, here are the five likeliest Ireland call-ups for the Wales game.

Niall Scannell

The Munster hooker is back playing for his province after recent rib and thumb injuries. May yet squeeze ahead of Sean Cronin to deputise for captain Rory Best.

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Dave Kilcoyne

Rarely injured, the Munster loosehead picked a bad time to pick up a knee injury [in January]. Returned in the win over Zebre and a good squad addition for Ireland.

Jack O'Donoghue

With the injuries to Heaslip, Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier - and with Tommy O'Donnell only back training - O'Donoghue was called in ahead of the Italy game to train. May yet be elevated to squad member for the Wales game.

Garry Ringrose

Leinster expect him to train fully this week, although it remains to be seen whether he will be pushed back for the Scarlets game in Guinness PRO14. Schmidt has stated that Ringrose is more than capable of going into the selection mix if he can hit high standards in his training sessions.

Sean O'Brien

Another who may find the Wales game has come a week or two too soon. O'Brien is recovering from a hip problem that has kept him out of action for two months but he is targeting a Six Nations return. Schmidt may bring him in next week, regardless, with one eye on the Scotland and England games.

Episode 50 of The Hard Yards fears from Bundee Aki and Joe Schmidt, features an interview with Donnacha Ryan and has James Downey in studio.