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Big four in as Ireland look to shock Oz

Ireland recalled a quartet of Leinster players to make their strongest possible side ahead of Saturday's crunch Rugby World Cup Pool C clash against Tri-Nations champions Australia.

Full-back Rob Kearney, flanker Sean O'Brien and prop Cian Healy all return from injury for the match at Eden Park, while scrum-half Eoin Reddan steps up from the replacements bench to take over from Conor Murray.

The return of the injured trio will be a huge lift for the side who struggled badly in August defeats against Scotland, England and twice against France, and who laboured past the United States in their World Cup opener on Sunday.

"I picked them because I believe they are going well. I believe they can play the game that we want to play and I believe they can get us the result that we want to get," said head coach Declan Kidney.

"When you play the Tri-Nations champions these are the sorts of games you really look forward to, that are really easy to get yourself up for.

"We have to lift our game even more and finish off some of the chances that we did create last Sunday."

British and Irish Lions full-back Kearney will make just his second start for Ireland this year after knee and groin issues and he takes over from Geordan Murphy, who struggled in the 22-10 win over the US Eagles.

"It's not ideal preparation for me and something that probably frightens me a little bit at times but that's sport, you have to play the hand you are dealt," Kearney said of his lack of game time.

"I have been in the situation like that before so you just have to be confident and carry on."

Healy, who flew out late to New Zealand because of an eye injury, starts in place of Tom Court and his inclusion is a big plus for the Irish, who are likely to attack the Wallabies supposed weakness in the front row.

O'Brien takes over from Shane Jennings at openside after recovering from a knee issue and he joins Jamie Heaslip and Stephen Ferris in a trio of strong ball carriers in the loose forwards.

O'Brien will play openside instead of his usual blindside role which is occupied by Ferris, who was impressive against the US, and their clash with Australian flanker and chief poacher David Pocock on Saturday will be key in deciding the outcome of the game most likely to decide the top-two places in the pool.


"He is a world class player, obviously, at the minute and he is in form and he is a big threat," O'Brien said.

Jonathan Sexton continues at flyhalf despite missing four kicks last time out.

The team will again be led by Brian O'Driscoll, one of nine players in the starting lineup from Leinster, last season's Heineken Cup winners.

O'Driscoll and regular centre partner Gordon D'Arcy will line up for an international record 45th time together, overtaking the mark set by England's Will Carling and Jeremy Guscott.

Australia are favourites to win the clash and Pool C after their strong showing in beating New Zealand to claim the Tri-Nations and their clinical back play in the second half of their opening World Cup victory over Italy on Sunday, but the Irish are confident of springing a surprise.

"You look at Australia at the moment, the way they have been playing in the Tri-Nations and the way they dealt with Italy at the weekend was excellent," said talismanic lock Paul O'Connell.

"There is no doubt they are the form side and we are the underdogs.

"We have failed to produce the goods for five games in a row now but hopefully it happens on Saturday."

IRELAND (v Australia)

R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Best, M Ross; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; S Ferris, S O'Brien, J Heaslip. Reps: J Flannery, T Court, D Ryan, D Leamy, C Murray, R O'Gara, A Trimble.