Three new faces in Ireland squad for NZ tour
Ireland have named three uncapped players in a 25-man squad for next month's three-test tour of New Zealand.
Ulster prop Declan Fitzpatrick, Munster hooker Mike Sherry and winger Simon Zebo, also from the Limerick-based club, were called up by coach Declan Kidney.
Ulster midfield back Darren Cave has been recalled after a three-year absence.
Experienced lock forward Paul O'Connell has not been named but could yet make the travelling party with Kidney to add another prop, lock, back-row forward and scrumhalf to the final touring squad, a statement on the Irish Rugby Union website said.
O'Connell, the Munster captain with 85 test caps to his name, has been out of action since he suffered a knee injury against Ulster on May 5.
Leinster centre Brian O'Driscoll makes a return to the squad for the first time since the World Cup and will start as captain for the tests on June 9, 16 and 23.
He returned from injury on Saturday to lead the Irish province to its third European Cup triumph in the space of four seasons, beating Ulster 42-14 at Twickenham in an all-Irish final.
Kidney told a news conference in Dublin that it was a "fantastic opportunity" for Fitzpatrick, Sherry and Zebo to play against New Zealand and they had made the side on merit.
He described the upcoming tour as "like three Heineken Cup finals" and that Ireland had everything to gain from the trip.
"We're eighth (in the world rankings). The gap between Ireland and New Zealand is there and there's nothing to lose... We must perform well," he told reporters.
Kidney also said it was important to have the strongest squad possible, which was why he had not named a full squad.
"You don't experiment in matches against New Zealand. It's akin to experimenting in Heineken play-off matches. You need to go for it," he said.
Backs: Darren Cave, Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls, Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Conor Murray, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Ronan O'Gara, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble, Simon Zebo
Forwards: Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Stephen Ferris, Declan Fitzpatrick, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Donncha O'Callaghan, Peter O'Mahony, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Mike Sherry, Dan Tuohy