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Back to the start as Kidney prepares to name team for France

Keith Earls looks set to be the only change when Declan Kidney names his team for Saturday’s trip to the Stade de France later this afternoon.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

DECLAN KIDNEY IS likely to revert to Plan A later this afternoon when he names his Ireland side to face France in Paris on Saturday evening.

Yesterday’s welcome, if frustrating, decision that Stephen Ferris’s tackle on Ian Evans was not even worthy of a penalty, let alone a yellow card and an ill-judged citing, frees Kidney to name the side which he initially chose for Sunday’s Six Nations opener.

Keith Earls, a late withdrawal from the Wales squad when his new-born daughter fell ill, returned to training in Carton House earlier this week and is set to finally don the green 13, seared into French memory when a baby-faced Brian O’Driscoll ran in a Parisian hat-trick 12 years ago.

Its controversial denouement aside, the underwhelming nature of Sunday’s 23-21 defeat has prompted plenty of speculation on personnel changes and positional shifts. But this is Deccie we’re talking about — thoughts of O’Mahony at 7, O’Brien at 8, Sexton at 12, Bowe at 13 or any other wild tactical innovations are ambitious, if not misguided.

The Murray/Sexton half-back combo played all but four minutes last weekend, which suggests that Kidney was not exactly disturbed by the amount of possession kicked away, particularly turnover ball in promising counter-attacking positions. Expect to see them retained at the expense of Reddan and ROG, at least to begin with.

Mercifully, there is much less room for speculation in the pack, where Ireland’s strongest side seems to pick itself. The absence of an specialist openside continues to worry but O’Mahony — the only plausible option — is unlikely to be tossed into the Parisian cauldron, particularly at the expense of a much more experienced colleague.

There are definite grounds for Donnacha Ryan to come into the second row alongside Paul O’Connell, a decision which many felt should have been made last week. But while unspectacular, Donncha O’Callaghan did little last weekend to fuel further criticism and is expected to get the nod again.

Ireland (probable v France): R Kearney; Bowe, Earls, D’Arcy, Trimble; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross, O’Callaghan, O’Connell (c), Ferris, O’Brien, Heaslip.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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