Friday 20 October 2017

Opportunity knocks . . .

Gavin Duffy

Given the back-three injury crisis, the Mayo man is the most experienced specialist full-back available to Declan Kidney for the Italy match. Secure under the high ball, Duffy also likes to run onto the ball and an impressive showing at Netherdale could earn him the No 15 jersey next week.

Tomas O'Leary

A quality scrum-half who needs match time to force his way back up the pecking order. The conditions could place an emphasis on physicality at close quarters and that is where O'Leary excels and it's a quality that is always needed against the Italians. Could catapult from third choice to first choice in 80 minutes.

Tony Buckley

The Munster man's demotion to the 'A' squad was both a reflection on his inconsistency and his need for game time. Buckley needs one of his barnstorming performances this evening but not just in the loose. If he struggles in the scrum against accomplished loose-head Jon Welsh, Buckley's chances of being involved in Rome will evaporate.

Damien Varley

The hooker is having a big season with Munster and with the injury to Jerry Flannery and doubt over Rory Best is well in the Ireland mix. A dynamic ball-carrier, a solid lineout-throwing display and scrummaging performance would keep the pressure on Sean Cronin.

Kevin McLaughlin

Injury has been a major disruption and we have barely seen the tuneful blind-side this season. The word is that Stephen Ferris is going to be okay for Italy but McLaughlin provides a valuable lineout-winning No 6 option and a big game tonight will stand to him later.

Irish Independent

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