Golden chance for Jennings to stake World Cup claim
OPPORTUNITY knocks for Shane Jennings against France at Lansdowne Road this evening (5.0) as the Leinster flanker seeks to play his way into Ireland's 30-man World Cup squad to be announced on Monday.
David Wallace was ruled out of Ireland's third warm-up international yesterday with a tight hamstring but is expected to be fit for next weekend's clash with England, leaving the 35-year-old short of game time before the squad heads to New Zealand.
It means Jennings slots straight in at No 7 having not played since breaking his arm in the Magners League final defeat to Munster at the end of May. It is a huge challenge for Jennings but also a massive opportunity as a good performance today could earn him a place in the squad, particularly if there are doubts surrounding Wallace's fitness.
France made 13 changes to the side that defeated Ireland 19-12 in Bordeaux last weekend and there was another alteration yesterday when Thierry Dusautoir was brought onto the bench for Raphael Lakafia, who is also nursing a hamstring strain.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has selected as close to a full-strength side as possible and French coach Marc Lievremont expects a furious assault from the home side, adding that heavy training during the week could affect his men.
"We did very heavy physical work this week," said Lievremont. "Obviously, we will play 80 minutes at full speed and a lot will depend on how we cope with the predictable Irish fury.
"It is just a warm-up match and whatever the lessons from this match, be they good or bad, they must be kept in perspective.
"There are still three weeks to go to the first World Cup match and a lot of progress to be made, but this game can give us confidence."