The Ireland squads for the game against the Barbarians and the mid-year tour to New Zealand, to be named in the coming weeks, received a timely boost with the news that forwards coach Gert Smal is fully fit to travel.
Ahead of Ireland's three-match Test series against New Zealand in June, a preliminary squad for the game against the Barbarians in Gloucester (Tuesday, May 29) will be announced next Monday (May 14).
Following this, the full squad for the tour to New Zealand will be announced, after the Heineken Cup Final, by Ireland head coach Declan Kidney, on Monday, May 21.
Kidney will be joined by assistant coaches - Australian Les Kiss and South African Gert Smal, who has been passed fully fit by his medical team and has been back at work and attending games since early April.
The former Springbok forwards coach, Smal, said he was "looking forward" to getting back to working with the players again.
"It was great to meet up with them last week at our squad get-together for the first time since I had to take time off," Smal said.
Smal’s symptoms affected his eyesight, and he stepped down from coaching duties to recover, with his playing retirement also caused by an eye injury when touring Queensland in 1993 with Western Province, with the blow threatening to rob the forward of his permanent vision.
"It was a worrying time for my family when I was getting these symptoms affecting my eyesight, but it was clear that I was not going to be able to fully function and deliver the guidance the players needed.
"We needed to get to the bottom of what was going on and I was advised to take some rest, so it is at times like these that you reluctantly have to listen to the advice."
He added: "Anthony Foley did a superb job when he stepped in at such short notice as did Paul [O'Connell] and also Rory [Best] and Donnacha Ryan to give that little bit of leadership along with the other forwards.
"I'm feeling really good and fit at the moment and really excited about stepping back onto the training field, which is where you want to be as a coach, and looking forward to the tour to New Zealand.
"It is one of the toughest places on earth to tour, so we have to be well prepared, but the opportunity to play the World champions three times in-a-row does not come along very often and is something that I think everybody is excited about."
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