New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has insisted that Rob Kearney’s international career is not over following his exclusion from a 45-man mini training camp in Dublin.

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Over the past 24 hours, Farrell, who succeeded Joe Schmidt as Ireland head coach following the Rugby World Cup, has held his first mini camp with his players. He named a 45-man squad for the camp, which the IRFU are calling a ‘mid-season stock-take’, but left out a host of established internationals, including Jordi Murphy and Sean Cronin.

However Rob Kearney, a 95-cap veteran, was the most noticeable absentee.

Kearney’s exclusion led to speculation that his international career may be over. At 33, he is one of the older members of the current squad, while the form of Leinster’s Jordan Larmour has also heightened calls to promote the 22-year-old to a regular first team spot.

However, speaking at the IRFU’s new High Performance Centre in Dublin today, Farrell said Kearney can still play his way back into contention ahead of the 2020 Six Nations.

“As you can see this squad was based on form and we can’t include everyone in the camp,” Farrell told the Irish Independent.

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“So we had to make a decision somewhere along the line. I’ve made it very clear to all the boys who’ve been in camp here over the last 24 hours that certainly this isn’t selection for the Six Nations.

“I’ve made it very clear to them what it is going to take for them to get selected. I’ve spoken to Rob but also other players who are not here and told them we will be watching them over this Christmas period.

“There are some big games in Ireland and then all the big games in Europe during January. It’s a big time for all the players and hopefully we will be picking a squad in January that is brimming with form.”

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Farrell has used the get-together to work on morale within the squad, including a trip to Dublin city centre where the players did some bucket-collecting on a busy shopping street in order to raise money for charity.

And the new head coach outlined that form is not the only factor he will take into consideration with his squad selections.

“Form has to be at the forefront of selection. It’s not everything,” he continued.

“You obviously look at what players will bring to the squad in terms of what they will add. Is what they have going to make the team play better?

“But we do want people sticking their heads above the parapet and saying, “Please pick me!” That’s what we want to see over the next four or five weeks and I’m looking forward to watching that.

“I’m sure players who are not here this weekend will be in the squad but we’ll see. We can’t pick 45 anyway. Maybe there are players that you would expect to get picked, who have already been in this camp, who may not get picked the next time.

“I’ve said to the boys leaving now that we need to be ready when we come into camp the next time. We’ve been watching the form over the last four or five weeks. But it’s not a line that is drawn and everyone is on it.

“I’ve explained to them that it is not about being just one of four or five players. You have to stand out, you’ve got to make it clear and obvious to everyone that you’re desperate to be in the squad.

“There are people who’ve trained over the last 24 hours and they’ll take stock of those words and hopefully that will help them with their performances for the provinces over the next month.

“And some of them may fall off the wayside as well. But we’ll assess it as we go.”

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