Six Nations: Ireland are a long shot, says Kidney
DECLAN Kidney has compared the experience of Ireland’s backline for Saturday’s RBS Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff to a lottery ticket.
The selection of exciting wings Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo, who number four Test appearances between them, contrasts with the near-200 caps shared by centres Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy.
O’Driscoll is one of a quartet of changes to the side that routed Argentina 46-24 in the climax to a mixed November, with Rob Kearney, Rory Best and Sean O’Brien also returning after missing the autumn through injury.
“The younger guys were buzzing around the camp in November and that has carried on into this month,” Kidney said. “A couple of the more senior players are starting to feel their age with the younger fellas around them.
“Look at the back line and the numbers – it’s like the lotto. You’ve got one, 120, 71 and three in terms of the number of caps. There’s a mix of experience.”
O’Brien’s return to the back row – once the former European player of the year had recovered from hip surgery – was inevitable with the biggest question mark hanging over who he would replace.
Ulster openside Chris Henry was superb during the autumn but it is blindside Peter O’Mahony, who today signed a new contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union lasting until 2015, who will line up against the Welsh.
“It was bit of a call. In terms of a mix as a starting back row, we felt Peter, Jamie [Heaslip] and Sean would be good for us. Chris’ performances did make it a topic of conversation,” Kidney said.
For the first time since succeeding Keith Wood as captain in 2004, O’Driscoll is relieved of the the leadership duties following Kidney’s decision to appoint number eight Heaslip as skipper.
IRELAND TEAM (to face Wales at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on Saturday, 1:30pm): R Kearney (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), B O’Driscoll (Leinster), G D’Arcy (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster), S O’Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), D O’Callaghan (Munster), C Henry (Ulster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O’Gara (Munster), K Earls (Munster).
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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