Monday 20 February 2017

Battles to watch

Published 30/03/2010 | 05:00

Out-half

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No sooner had Jonathan Sexton emerged as Declan Kidney's first-choice pick, his errant goal-kicking and Ronan O'Gara's unflappability from the bench has queered the pitch once more.

Scrum-half

After even his own coach questioned his physicality earlier this season, Eoin Reddan faces a big test of character against Tomas O'Leary, all the while acknowledging that even holding on to his club shirt will get even more difficult next season.

Front-row

Forget Munster brother against Leinster brother. Even within Munster, there is a huge issue here. Many are calling for John Hayes to stay at home this summer in order to allow Tony Buckley justify the national coaching staff's claims about his potential to be "world class".

Mike Ross could do with a big game -- if he plays -- while forgotten man, Marcus Horan, will be keen to outplay loose-head rival Cian Healy. Jerry Flannery's return will add further spice.

Second-row

Leo Cullen will be keen to demonstrate that he could have helped to stem the systems failure which afflicted the Irish line-out against Scotland in the final Six Nations outing at Croke Park. Paul O'Connell will be champing at the bit to rediscover his best form.

Three-quarters

With Leinster missing stars Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald -- and Gordon D'Arcy unlikely to be risked -- it will be up to the Irish back-line stars of the future -- like Fergus McFadden and Denis Hurley -- to declare a statement of intent before the Irish coaching staff.

David Kelly

Irish Independent

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