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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 10:05 GMT
Flannery set to start for Ireland
Munster hooker Jerry Flannery made his debut against Romania
Jerry Flannery made his debut as a replacement last November
Munster hooker Jerry Flannery is set to make his first international start in Ireland's opening RBS Six Nations against Italy at Lansdowne Road.

With Shane Byrne omitted, Flannery is one of nine Munster players included in coach Eddie O'Sullivan's match squad.

Ulster have five representatives with Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe left vying for a possible start after full-back Girvan Dempsey was omitted.

Wasps' uncapped scrum-half Eoin Reddan is also included in the match 22.

Brian O'Driscoll returns to lead the side after missing the autumn tests.

Meanwhile, Flannery, who made his international debut as a second-half replacement against Romania in November, has been in impressive form for Munster this season.

The 27-year-old Shannon player's emergence is due to the career-threatening neck injury to Frankie Sheahan, and the demise of Saracens' hooker Byrne who toured with the Lions last summer.

Byrne's international career now looks over after making 55 appearances for his country.

Rory Best, meanwhile, is now Flannery's main rival. Best, younger brother of prop Simon, made his international debut as a replacement against New Zealand in November.

The other new face is Wasps' scrum-half Reddan who may well make his debut as cover for Peter Stringer with Guy Easterby having been overlooked despite his recent good form.

As always we have gone with the players in form at this time
Eddie O'Sullivan

Reddan moved to the Premiership last season when coach Warren Gatland was in charge, and is now pushing England's World Cup winner Matt Dawson down to the bench.

Overall, O'Sullivan has gone for experience with a likely scenario of a Munster front-row with Marcus Horan and John Hayes joining Flannery.

Paul O'Connell, Donnacha O'Callaghan and Malcolm O'Kelly are the locks while Simon Easterby, David Wallace, Johnny O'Connor and Denis Leamy are in the back-row mix.

However, O'Sullivan has dispensed with the services of the vastly-experienced Munster captain Anthony Foley and Leinster prop Reggie Corrigan.

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan:
"There were some very hard calls made to reduce the squad to our match 22, but as always we have gone with the players in form at this time," he said.

"With the performances of the provinces in European competition, there is a good positive feeling in the camp.

"But the players and staff are well aware of the Italian challenge."

Ireland squad: (Backs): T Bowe (Ulster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), S Horgan (Leinster), D Humphreys (Ulster), G Murphy (Leicester), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Wasps), P Stringer (Munster), A Trimble (Ulster).

(Forwards): S Best (Ulster), R Best (Ulster), S Easterby (Llanelli), J Flannery (Munster), J Hayes (Munster), M Horan (Munster), D Leamy (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), J O'Connor (Wasps), M O'Kelly (Leinster), D Wallace (Munster).

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