Kidney demands winning start
DECLAN KIDNEY may be keeping back the majority of his frontline players for later in the month, but the Ireland coach insists beating Scotland in the opening World Cup warm-up international at Murrayfield tomorrow is crucial.
Ireland lost the corresponding fixture in 2007, setting the tone for a disastrous World Cup campaign, where they failed to reach the knockout stages for the first time. Four years on, Kidney is determined to begin the run-in to New Zealand 2011 on a positive note.
"These guys never look to do anything other than win," stressed Kidney. "We need to get our combinations right and give our best performance, but at the end of the day, we are trying to win a game, otherwise you are doing the jersey a disservice."
With Brian O'Driscoll ruled out with a neck/shoulder complaint, Leo Cullen leads the side, becoming the 100th man to captain Ireland. Rob Kearney returns from his long knee-injury lay-off to take his place at full-back, while Fergus McFadden forms a midfield partnership with Paddy Wallace.
After missing the latter stages of the Six Nations, Tomas O'Leary is back at scrum-half, where he starts alongside Jonathan Sexton for just the seventh time, while Kidney offers a first cap at blindside flanker to Mike McCarthy, Connacht's sole representative in the match 22.
"I am massively proud," said McCarthy. "I am 29 now and getting a bit older but I always felt I was good enough.
"I always backed myself and worked hard and I am extremely grateful to Connacht, and coaches Dan McFarland and Eric Elwood."
Meanwhile, the IRFU revealed they would be making a major announcement regarding the future of Irish rugby on Monday, which is expected to involve the extension of major sponsorship deals with O2 and Puma.
IRELAND -- R Kearney; A Trimble, F McFadden, P Wallace, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, T O'Leary; T Court, S Cronin, T Buckley; D Ryan, L Cullen (capt); M McCarthy, N Ronan, D Leamy. Reps: J Flannery, M Horan, J Hayes, M O'Driscoll, K McLaughlin, I Boss, F Jones.