Sport Rugby

Friday 24 February 2017

Kidney faces key dilemma over O'Gara and Sexton

Hugh Farrelly

THE Ireland out-half debate is set for another twist today when Ireland coach Declan Kidney names his side to take on the Barbarians in Friday night's clash at Thomond Park.

Ronan O'Gara and Jonathan Sexton are once again battling for the No 10 jersey ahead of the summer tour and, with the Test against the All Blacks in New Plymouth little over a week away, whoever starts against the Baa-Baas will have the early advantage.

The fact that Leinster played last weekend in the Magners League final defeat to the Ospreys means Kidney will probably opt to rest some of their players but, equally, the Ireland coach will want to have a look at key combinations, such as half-back, ahead of the New Zealand clash.

Ireland jet out to New Zealand on Saturday minus a clutch of injured front-liners such as Paul O'Connell, Stephen Ferris, Denis Leamy and Luke Fitzgerald, and there is a strong argument for opting for the experience of O'Gara against the All Blacks -- a side Ireland have never beaten. However, Sexton was first-choice No 10 in Ireland's last international, the defeat to Scotland on March 20.

With a long journey to negotiate the following day and the need to assess various options ahead of the three-match tour, the likelihood is that the bench will be emptied in the second half on Friday night, and both men could see significant time on the pitch.

The Barbarians named their team yesterday and included Irish veterans Malcolm O'Kelly and Alan Quinlan as well as Munster's Australian full-back Paul Warwick.

Irish Independent

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