Six Nations 2017: Fit-again Jared Payne named in extended Ireland squad
Fit-again Ulster player Jared Payne has been included in a 36-man Ireland squad for the Six Nations matches against Wales and England later this month.
Payne, 31, made his return in Ulster's Pro12 win over Zebre after three months out because of a kidney injury.
Leinster fly-half Joey Carbery comes in at the expense of Munster counterpart Ian Keatley, while forwards Dave Kilcoyne and Jack Conan are recalled.
There is no place in the squad for Ulster winger Tommy Bowe however.
Carbery, who made his three international appearances to date in the November autumn international series before injuring his ankle, will offer back-up for Johnny Sexton and Paddy Jackson at number 10.
Loose-head prop Kilcoyne boasts 17 international caps and has recently scored tries for Munster against the Dragons and the Ospreys in the Pro12.
Ireland play Wales in Cardiff on 10 March and then face England in a potential title decider in Dublin on 18 March.
Full-back Rob Kearney underwent a scan on Monday after being forced off in Saturday's win over France because of a groin injury.
While no details of the scan results have been revealed, the Ireland management appear reasonably confident that the Leinster man will be available for the Wales game.
If Kearney was ruled out, Payne would be a full-back option although a switch for Simon Zebo from wing to the number 15 jersey, with Andrew Trimble coming into the starting line-up. might be a more likely scenario.
Payne came off the bench in the second half of Ulster's game in Italy on Sunday to make his first appearance since sustaining a fractured kidney in Ireland's game against Australia in November.
The New Zealander, who has been a regular at centre alongside Robbie Henshaw since Brian O'Driscoll's retirement, is expected to get further game time with Ulster against Treviso on Friday.
Connacht lock Ultan Dillane is recalled to coach Joe Schmidt's squad, with Quinn Roux providing additional cover in the second row.
Ireland extended 36-man squad for the Six Nations against Wales and England:
Forwards (19): Rory Best (Ulster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Dan Leavy (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Tommy O'Donnell (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Quinn Roux (Connacht), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), John Ryan (Munster), Niall Scannell (Munster), CJ Stander (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), James Tracy (Leinster).
Backs (17): Joey Carbery (Leinster), Andrew Conway (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Luke McGrath (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Tiernan O'Halloran (Connacht), Jared Payne (Ulster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster).