Tag Archives: Donnacha Ryan

Can Ireland Finish on Positive Note?

All Blacks vs. Ireland

Ireland need to back up last weekend with another strong display. (c) Geof Wilson.

I’ll put my hand up and admit I did not see that Irish performance coming in the 2nd test. In fact, I had predicted another heavy loss for Ireland. I’m delighted that I was proven utterly wrong. The physicality ferocity shown by Declan Kidney’s side was something we haven’t seen since the shock win over Australia at last year’s World Cup. In the immediate aftermath of the 2nd test, I wrote about the frustration caused by Ireland’s inconsistency. If Ireland fail to put in a similar performance tomorrow, is this tour a failure? What do we need to see tomorrow to call it a success?

Obviously, Kidney and his squad will demand a similar level of intensity from themselves this weekend. Ireland showed in that 2nd test that they’re a match for any side when they front-up physically and work hard for 80 minutes. That needs to become a given for Ireland. While I recognise that it’s impossible to be at 100% every single weekend, Ireland need to push themselves to the limit every time they take to the field. Regardless of tactics, moves and other technical aspects, that determination and focus should be mandatory.

The difference in attitude between the 1st and 2nd tests was stark. Frankly, the approach to the 1st test was not up to scratch, and the players themselves will recognise that. It’s true that the All Blacks were nowhere near their best last Saturday, but that shouldn’t enter the equation. The fact is that Ireland gave Dan Carter and his buddies less scope to run riot than they did in the 1st test. So first off, and most importantly, Ireland need to match last weekend’s physicality and intensity. Even without that elusive first win, that would be progress.

All Blacks vs. Ireland

Ireland’s attacking shape was better in test 2. (c) Geof Wilson.

In terms of game plan, Kidney and Les Kiss must stress the importance of taking points from our visits to the All Blacks’ third of the pitch. There were too many missed opportunities in that regard last time out. Spilled ball, accidental offsides and overthrown lineouts have to be cut out. While I’m not suggesting that Ireland slow down their possession, patience is important. One of the encouraging things about the 2nd test was how Ireland worked hard to keep their shape in attack, particularly in the build-up to Conor Murray’s try.

While Murray was eventually forced to slow things down just before he snuck over, the phases preceding that were impressive. The forwards worked hard to get into good positions to carry ball, and there were options out the back too. That meant Murray had less to think about it at the base of the ruck, and as a result, his service looked quicker. Ireland’s defensive breakdown work has been a real strength on this tour, but as pointed out by Kiss, we need to be more clinical in cleaning out rucks in attack. The ball needs to be on a plate for Murray.

In defence, Ireland are always at their best when they’re proactive, rather than reactive. By that I mean they need go looking to make hits, rush up hard at times to shut down the All Blacks and generally put them under pressure. Of course this requires excellent communication, something that was patently absent in the 1st test. Again, the 2nd test brought great improvement but there were one or two occasions when Ireland sat back in defence, notably in the build-up to Aaron Smith’s try. The Six Nations loss to Wales this year showed how badly a soft, drifting defence suits Ireland. Another aggressive defensive effort would be further progress.

All Blacks vs. Ireland

Ireland should attack the All Blacks’ scrum. (c) Geof Wilson.

It goes without saying that Ireland should target the scrum, particularly with Romain Poite refereeing. He will always reward the side going forward, so more of what we saw in the 2nd half of the 2nd test is necessary. Ireland’s mindset at the scrum can develop into a destructive one. In terms of personnel, Declan Fitzpatrick should be given 20 or 3o minutes in order to continue his progress. He showed real promise in the 1st test and wouldn’t represent a huge risk.

It’s a positive that Dan Tuohy, Donnacha Ryan, Fergus McFadden, Peter O’Mahony and Kevin McLaughlin are all getting more exposure to international rugby. They will all greatly benefit from it. Ryan in particular has stood out and is starting to look really comfortable at this level. Tuohy has had two tests to find his feet and needs to match his second-row partner tomorrow. McFadden may not be a natural winger, but similarly he needs to show some attacking edge to repay Kidney’s loyalty.

To sum it up, if Ireland show a similar level of intensity and physicality, continue to improve their attacking shape, keep their defence proactive, attack the scrum and demand more from the new faces, this tour will have been a genuine success. It may seem like quite a lot to ask for, but these players will demand it of themselves. After the 1st test, I never imagined I would be saying that Ireland have developed on this tour. Regardless of the result tomorrow, if Ireland turn in a similar, or even better performance than the 2nd test, that would represent clear positive progress.

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Photos courtesy: Geof Wilson.

Kidney Embraces Change

Ireland

Ireland are set for kick-off agains the All Blacks on Saturday. (c) Ken Bohane.

Declan Kidney’s team selection for Saturday’s 1st Test against the All Blacks shows he may be finally changing his loyal ways. With two new caps in Simon Zebo and Declan Fitzpatrick as well as five players who may not have expected to be starting, this is an exciting Irish team at last. Heavily criticised regulars like Donncha O’Callaghan and Gordon D’Arcy have finally been dropped. I, for one, am delighted with this Irish team.

There are interesting combinations everywhere across the field in this fresh-looking match day 22. Starting with the back-three, world-class fullback Rob Kearney is joined by newcomer Simon Zebo and, perhaps even more surprisingly, Leinster’s Fergus McFadden. If I had seen McFadden anywhere in this team, it was at 12 but his hard-working display on the right wing in the Heineken Cup final looks to have convinced Kidney. The 25-year-old will need to shackle the attacking talent of Julian Savea opposite him, but is certainly up to the task.

Much has been made of the choice to bring Zebo on tour ahead of other worthy young wings like Craig Gilroy, Dave Kearney and Tiernan O’Halloran. The Munster speedster is often accused of having a weak defensive game, and that is fair to some extent. From my point of view, Zebo is a 22-year-old with pace, evasiveness and confidence. He has scored 12 tries in 23 games in his breakthrough season. If he had done the same for a Super Rugby side, we would be hyping him beyond belief. Zebo is an exciting natural talent and will only improve with this kind of opportunity.

Simon Zebo Munster's try scorer copy

Simon Zebo is in for his first international cap. (c) Ivan O’Riordan.

Brian O’Driscoll and Keith Earls make up the centre partnership for Saturday, and this will be a fascinating combination. By picking that pair, and having Darren Cave on the bench, Kidney has included the three best 13s in the country this season in his match day 22. Earls has been named at 12, but it would be no surprise to see himself and O’Driscoll swap in and out, particularly in defence. I can’t recall having seen Earls playing 12 before but after the impressive season he’s had, his confidence must be high. Up against Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith, the Irish midfield will have a busy day.

The half-backs of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray are fairly established at this level by now. Still, Murray’s selection at 9 will be greeted with grunts of disapproval, particularly from Leinster fans. Eoin Reddan’s crisp delivery has helped their attacking game flow this season but I still feel Kidney has made the correct call here. If the rain comes on Saturday, as expected, Murray is more suited to the physical encounter it would bring. Even if it remains dry, I believe that Murray can deliver quick ball. When he first came through at Munster, his service was notably swift. However, this season’s game plans at Munster and Ireland have slowed him down.

The back-row sees one change from the Six Nations, with Peter O’Mahony stepping in for the injured Stephen Ferris. The Ulster flanker is obviously a huge loss, but there may be positives in it too. Firstly, it means a much-needed break for Ferris’ body, but it also changes the attributes of our back-row. Although O’Mahony will wear the 6 jersey, his inclusion is likely to mean Sean O’Brien will get on the ball in attack a bit more. In defence, O’Brien continues to improve at the breakdown. Jamie Heaslip will be eager to put things right against the All Blacks, having lost the head, and the game, back in 2010.

SOB

O’Brien may see more of the ball with O’Mahony in the team. (c) Ken Bohane.

Dan Tuohy and Donnacha Ryan in the second-row are two players coming off the back of superb seasons. They’re a completely untested combination, but Kidney has seen sense in dropping Donncha O’Callaghan to the bench. As the heavier of the pair, Tuohy will pack down on the tighthead side at scrum-time. Look out for the locks in phase play as both are aggressive ball-carriers, and are auditioning for a spot beside Paul O’Connell in next year’s Six Nations. New Zealand’s Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick are bigger boys, but the Irish pair can match them around the park.

Finally, the front-row sees Declan Fitzpatrick in for the injured Mike Ross. The Leinster prop will almost certainly be back from injury for the 2nd Test, so this is Fitzpatrick’s time to shine. It’s certainly a case of being thrown in at the deep end, up against Tony Woodcock but this is what Ireland needed. Much has been written about our ‘tighthead crisis’ and this is the first step on the path to remedying it. Rory Best will need to guide his Ulster team mate through the game. He shouldn’t have any worries about Cian Healy on the other side. The 24-year-old is getting better all the time, and appears to be relishing his scrummaging duties as he matures.

Finally, the inclusions of Ronan Loughney and Darren Cave on the bench are very welcome. Connacht man Loughney will surely win his first cap, as he covers both sides of the front-row. Cave has been in standout form for Ulster all season and deserves a run. Overall, I’m delighted with this Irish team. It’s exactly what I’ve been hoping for. Even if Ireland don’t get close to the All Blacks, I’ll be happy that guys have been given the chance to stake their claim. Us Irish fans have endlessly criticised Declan Kidney’s conservatism in recent months. Now that he has made some exciting changes, we must not take a conservative view ourselves. Bring on Saturday!

Please leave a comment with your views on the team. Right calls? Wrong calls? Who should/shouldn’t be there? Have we got a chance on Saturday?

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Photos courtesy: Ivan O’Riordan, Ken Bohane.

Tuohy Deserves His Shot

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Dan Tuohy rises highest in Ulster’s defeat to Leinster last weekend. (c) Ken Bohane.

Declan Kidney has picked four second-rows in his squad to tour New Zealand: Donncha O’Callaghan, Dan Tuohy, Donnacha Ryan and AN Other. Paul O’Connell will take that AN Other slot if he recovers from a knee injury as expected. Devin Toner is unlucky to miss out, as is Mike McCarthy. If he is fit, then O’Connell is obviously one of the first names on the team sheet. I’m confident that he won’t miss this tour. So who should pack down alongside POC in that first test on the 9th of June? The battle for the second-row could be one of the tightest calls Kidney has to make.

The continued selection of O’Callaghan during this year’s Six Nations was the foundation of much of the criticism aimed at Kidney. It was certainly justified. The fact that O’Callaghan hasn’t been commanding a starting place at Munster, coupled with the form of Ryan, Tuohy, McCarthy and Toner made it hard to understand. Kidney’s loyalty has been infuriating for Ireland’s supporters, and O’Callaghan is prime evidence for the accusations.

First off, let me say that I’m not a fan of slagging off individual players. Donnacha O’Callaghan has been a legend for Munster and Ireland. He clearly cares passionately about playing for both teams and it’s obvious that he gives 100%. At his peak he was hugely effective. But he’s now 33 and is past that peak. If that’s so obvious the majority of Ireland fans, then why does Kidney keep picking him? There must be something behind this other than blind loyalty.

THOMOND PARK

O’Callaghan has been a true stalwart for Munster and Ireland. (c) Liam Coughlan.

Trying to get inside the mind of Declan Kidney is not an easy thing to do. Clearly his decision to keep faith in O’Callaghan is swayed by their previous shared successes. Kidney also probably feels that O’Callaghan gives his pack a better balance. With ball-carriers in Healy, O’Brien, Ferris and to a certain extent O’Connell and Heaslip, Kidney probably feels that a workhorse like O’Callaghan is necessary if there’s going to be anyone committing to rucks.

O’Callaghan is probably a good scrummager too, particularly if you judge from his attempts to give Tom Court some helpful advice during the Twickenham Demolition. If that’s the case, and O’Callaghan does give a serious shove from the second-row, then it may go a little further to explaining why Kidney chose him during the Six Nations. But the time has come for O’Callaghan to step aside. The simple fact is that Ryan and Tuohy can do everything that O’Callaghan does, and plenty more.

Ryan will feel that he has earned the starting role alongside O’Connell after his Six Nations displays. He added serious aggression and bite to Ireland’s game each time he played (2 starts, 3 off the bench). Allied to that, the Tipperary man has finally nailed down a definitive starting role at Munster at the age of 28. Ryan surely believes that he has done everything in his power to be named in Ireland’s XV for that first test against the All Blacks.

Donnacha Ryan's lineout copy

Ryan had an impressive Six Nations in what has been a real breakthrough season. (c) Ivan O’Riordan.

Ulster lock Tuohy has been excellent for his province for the entire season. His ball carrying has been increasingly dynamic, his lineout work superb, and he can offload too. The Bristol-born second-row would have been aggrieved that Kidney called up Connacht’s Mike McCarthy as bench cover when O’Connell picked up a knee injury during the Six Nations. The fact that McCarthy had the most recent international exposure was the deciding factor, as appears to be be the case very often with Kidney.

Tuohy kept his head down and continued to excel for Ulster as they earned their place in last weekend’s Heineken Cup final. The 26-year-old was one of Ulster’s standout performers in the 42-12 loss. He made his tackles, hit rucks and secured lineout ball without fuss. On top of that he carried powerfully, something O’Callaghan doesn’t do. The manner in which he bounced off a Sean O’Brien tackle was a surprising and welcome highlight. To top off a strong all-round display, Tuohy popped up out wide to finish after Paddy Wallace’s intelligent offload.

Ryan and Tuohy are the men with momentum and confidence behind them. O’Callaghan’s days as a first-choice international lock are surely now at an end, despite his inclusion in the squad to tour NZ. O’Connell’s complete skills mean that whichever of Ryan or Tuohy are picked, Ireland’s second-row will still have balance. Personally, I’d go for Tuohy and O’Connell for the first test, with Ryan giving versatility and a real impact off the bench.

Would you go for Tuohy or Ryan? Are there any O’Callaghan fans out there? If O’Connell doesn’t recover, would a second-row of Tuohy and Ryan work? As always, feel welcome to leave a comment with your views!

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Photos courtesy: Liam Coughlan, Ken Bohane, Ivan O’Riordan.

RaboDirect Round-Up

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Sexton contributed 11 points to Leinster's win over Ulster. (c) Ken Bohane.

Ulster 8-16 Leinster

Fri 20th April @ Ravenhill

Ulster’s play-off hopes look to be almost certainly over after losing to a powerful Leinster side in Ravenhill on Friday night. While the northern province could still mathematically claim 4th spot with an unlikely bonus point victory over Munster in two weeks’ time, a win the same weekend for either the Warriors or the Scarlets would deny Ulster. Even more worrying was the sight of Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry and Paddy Wallace all leaving the pitch injured during Friday night’s loss.

Henry and Wannenburg’s withdrawals looked to be precautionary, but Wallace looked dazed, if not concussed, leaving the field. Fingers will be crossed across the country that those three recover for next Saturday’s Heineken Cup semi-final against Edinburgh. Meanwhile, Leinster were impressive without ever cutting loose. Kevin McLaughlin crashed over after some poor Ulster defence and Jonny Sexton added 11 points, including a smart drop goal. This win confirms top spot for Leinster with a game away to the Dragons remaining.

Here’s the highlights from Ravenhill:

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Connacht 19-16 Aironi 

Sat 21st April @ The Sportsground

Unfortunately, this game was not televised but it sounded like there was great excitement at the Sportsground. This win makes it 3-in-a-row in the PRO12 for Connacht, their best league run since 2004. Aironi, in their last ever away fixture, raced into a 16-3 half-time lead but Connacht gradually hauled themselves back with Rodney Ah You’s 74th-minute try, converted by Miah Nikora, leveling the game. The stage was set for replacement fullback Matt Jarvis to make himself the hero with a long-distance penalty, the final act of the game.

In case you missed it, I wrote a piece on Friday about the progress being made at Connacht. Check it out here. Next weekend, they travel to the Warriors, for whom a win would secure play-off status. A victory for Connacht would see them equal their record for most league wins in a season, set at 8 in 2004. If they were to deny the Warriors a losing bonus point, it would give Ulster a slim, slim chance of sneaking into the play-offs.

Here’s a video of Jarvis’ winning kick. Great scenes of celebration:

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Scarlets 20-20 Munster

Sat 21st April @ Parc y Scarlets

At the end, Munster were clinging on as the Scarlets launched a desperate effort to find a winning score. A draw was a fair result after a game in which neither side managed to take control. The hosts opened the scoring through Sean Lamont’s superb team try but Munster responded swiftly, with Donnacha Ryan strolling through Rhys Preistland’s uninterested tackle to touch down. Simon Zebo was next over after taking Keatley’s intelligent inside pass and using his pace to finish.

Aaron Shingler’s second half score put the Scarlets right back in it, and Priestland’s 70th-minute penalty drew them level. The Scarlets looked the more likely winners in a wildly open last 5 minutes but the visitors held on. The draw means that Munster can’t overtake the 2nd-placed Ospreys for a home play-off. They are now guaranteed an away semi-final though, most likely against the Ospreys. Munster finish the regular season with the chance for revenge over Ulster in two weekend’s time.

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Here’s a look at the PRO12 table with just one round of fixtures left before the play-offs:

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Photos courtesy: 

Ireland Must Target Laidlaw

Greig Laidlaw Edinburgh Captain

Laidlaw, playing at scrumhalf for Edinburgh here, will start at outhalf for Scotland tomorrow. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

Despite three loses from three, seemingly everyone is in agreement that Scotland have deserved more in this year’s Six Nations. The 23-17 loss to France in particular saw Scotland play with real attacking punch, offloading at every opportunity. Free-flowing attacking rugby is something that hasn’t been readily associated with Scotland in recent years but some key personnel changes have allowed them to play with a bit more ambition. Outhalf Greig Laidlaw has been a key part of that.

Tomorrow will only be the 26-year-old’s third start, and fifth cap, for Scotland. The Edinburgh halfback has played much of his rugby at scrumhalf and his first cap came there, as a replacement for Mike Blair in 2010. However, Laidlaw’s involvement with the Scottish Sevens side has helped him develop into the exciting attacking outhalf we have seen in recent weeks. His background at scrumhalf is evident in his quality passing, while his time playing sevens is clear in his elusive running game. Add to that competent place-kicking, and Laidlaw has been impressive for the Scottish.

There is one glaring weakness in Laidlaw’s skill set though and that is his defensive game. At just 12st 8lbs (80kg) and 5′ 9″, he is not the biggest guy, especially in comparison with some of the monsters in international rugby. When he plays at scrumhalf, Laidlaw has far less front-on tackles to make and his size is really not an issue. At outhalf though, Laidlaw has to deal with a lot more traffic. He never looks confident in the tackle.

Try for Dougie Howlett

Doug Howlett goes through a Laidlaw tackle to score for Munster this season. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

Ireland must be merciless in their targeting of Laidlaw on Saturday. We have to get our strong carriers in Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip and Donnacha Ryan running at the outhalf whenever they get a chance. Laidlaw often tends to hang out on the wings in phase play as Scotland defend. If that is the case at the Aviva, then we must work the ball wide to give Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble one-on-ones with him.

Wesley Fofana’s try for France in that 23-17 win showed Ireland the way. Laidlaw’s opposite number, Francois Trinh-Duc, far from a physical specimen himself, bounced Laidlaw into the ground to put France on the front foot inside the Scottish 22. From that position, Fofana is hard to stop. Laidlaw’s missed tackle was the key though, putting Scotland into a defensive scramble. If Laidlaw does defend in this channel then Ireland have to repeatedly search him out.

It’s an obvious point to make, but France failed to exploit the weakness to it’s full extent. Apart from that missed tackle, Laidlaw only had to make 3 other tackles in his 50 minutes on the pitch. Wales were a little more ruthless, forcing the outhalf to tackle 10 times, of which he missed 3. It’s a basic tactic to target certain players when you have the ball, but it’s extremely rare to have a player as defensively weak as Laidlaw playing international rugby, so it needs to be highlighted.

Laidlaw

Laidlaw, kicking for Edinburgh here, has scored 18 points for Scotland in this year's Six Nations. (c) Craig Marren.

The breathless tempo of international rugby can make it difficult to pick out individual players in the opposition defence. Ireland have to make it a team effort, communicating to each other where the outhalf is in the defensive line. Just as countless teams have targeted Ronan O’Gara over the years, we must now do the same to Laidlaw.

*Where else do you see the key battles taking place tomorrow? Do you think Scotland are a real threat to Ireland or do you expect a comfortable win? Comment below with all your views on tomorrow’s game…

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Photos courtesy:  Craig Marren, Ivan O’Riordan.

Best Takes Over Captaincy

Ireland are back at the Aviva on Saturday. (c) Ken Bohane.

Rory Best will captain Ireland for the third time against Scotland at the Aviva on Saturday. The 57-times capped hooker previously captained the side against Canada and the USA back in 2009. Both those games resulted in wins for Ireland and Declan Kidney will hope that Best has the same winning effect as captain this time too. Best’s form and experience made him the most obvious choice to skipper the side.

In the other team news, Donnacha Ryan finally gets the start his form deserves, albeit only because of the injury to Paul O’Connell. With Donncha O’Callaghan beside him in the second-row, the Munster pair will have a serious challenge on their hands against the Scots, particularly from Richie Gray and John Barclay at lineout time. Ryan will be keen to show Kidney exactly what he has been missing in the loose. He stole lineout ball against both Wales and Italy after coming off the bench and hopefully can take over from O’Connell in that regard.

Eoin Reddan replaces Conor Murray at scrumhalf, a switch that was widely discussed in the build-up to Paris. It will be intriguing to see whether Reddan’s supposedly quicker service allows Johnny Sexton more freedom and time on the ball. Tomas O’Leary must be surprised to find himself back on the bench, but he does at least offer something different to Reddan. Connacht’s Mike McCarthy is also promoted to the bench, offering a natural number 4 jumper in case of a lineout meltdown. His form this season makes it a deserved call-up.

What do you think of the team? Should Kidney have made more changes for Saturday? With the Championship gone, could he have used this game to blood some new players? Are you feeling confident ahead of Saturday or do you think Scotland could cause an upset? Comment below with all your views!

Sexton starts, with ROG on the bench again. (c) Art Widak.

Ireland team to face Scotland:

15. Rob Kearney (Leinster)

14. Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)

13. Keith Earls (Munster)

12. Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster)

11. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)

10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)

9. Eoin Reddan (Leinster)

1. Cian Healy (Leinster)

2. Rory Best (Ulster, capt.)

3. Mike Ross (Leinster)

4. Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster)

5. Donnacha Ryan (Munster)

6. Stephen Ferris (Ulster)

7. Sean O’Brien (Leinster)

8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)

Subs:

16. Sean Cronin (Leinster) 17. Tom Court (Ulster) 18. Mike McCarthy (Connacht) 19. Peter O’Mahony (Munster) 20. Tomas O’Leary (Munster) 21. Ronan O’Gara (Munster) 22. Fergus McFadden (Leinster).

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Photo courtesy:  Ken Bohane, Art Widak.

Kidney Makes One Change For France

Ireland Earls

Keith Earls returns at outside centre. (c) Liam Coughlan.

Ireland have named their team to take on France on Saturday evening in Stade de France. Coach Declan Kidney has made only one change to the starting fifteen which lost 23-21 to Wales last Sunday.

As expected, the returning Keith Earls takes his pace at outside centre, with Fergus McFadden dropping to the bench. Dave Kearney is the one to drop out of the match day 22 to accomodate Earls’ inclusion. Once again, Donnacha Ryan will be disappointed to start on the bench after his impressive cameo against Wales.

Kidney has once again stayed loyal to this group of players and he will expect to be rewarded with an aggressive performance. Ireland need to step up their levels of desire and urgency greatly from last weekend, especially with Kidney retaining his trust in that team.

What do you make of the team below? Comment at the bottom of this piece with the changes you would have made…

Ireland team to face Wales

1. Cian Healy (Leinster)

2. Rory Best (Ulster)

3. Mike Ross (Leinster)

4. Donnacha O’Callaghan (Munster)

5. Paul O’Connell (Munster)

6. Stephen Ferris (Ulster)

7. Sean O’Brien (Leinster)

8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)

9. Conor Murray (Munster)

10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)

11. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)

12. Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster)

13. Keith Earls (Munster)

14. Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)

15. Rob Kearney (Leinster)

Subs

16. Sean Cronin (Leinster), 17. Tom Court (Ulster), 18. Donnacha Ryan (Munster), 19. Peter O’Mahony (Munster), 20. Eoin Reddan (Leinster), 21. Ronan O’Gara (Munster), 22. Fergus McFadden (Leinster).

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DUBLIN

Yachvili has been ruled out with a back injury. (c) Liam Coughlan.

France have had to make a late change to their starting fifteen, after Dimitri Yachvili pulled out with a back injury. Morgan Parra is his more than capable replacement, with Julien Dupuy promoted to the bench.

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Photo courtesy:  Liam Coughlan.