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Cullen in as O'Callaghan ruled out of Italy battle

Ireland second-row Donncha O'Callaghan has been withdrawn from the Ireland team to play Italy in tomorrow's Six Nations Championship opener after suffering a setback with a knee injury on Wednesday.

O'Callaghan's left knee was tested yesterday and a call was made this morning that he will not be fit to play in Ireland's Six Nations opener at Croke Park tomorrow.

O'Callaghan's injury sees Leinster lock Leo Cullen promoted from the replacement bench. He will line out in the second-row alongside Paul O'Connell, as he did against Fiji in November, for his first Six Nations game since he started against Wales in March 2003.

Munster's Donnacha Ryan has taken Cullen's place on the bench and is in line for his first Six Nations cap.



Determined ravens keep out blues to secure win

Three penalties from out-half Niall O'Connor gave the Ulster Ravens a 9-0 victory over Leinster 'A' at a windswept Navan RFC yesterday.

A second-minute attempted drop-goal from Leinster out-half Ian Madigan sailed inches wide as Leinster dominated the early play, and Eoin Sheriff looked particularly dangerous with ball in hand in wintry conditions in Co Meath.

Madigan's second effort at goal -- a 14th minute penalty -- failed to break the deadlock after going wide, while another effort, near the touchline, two minutes later and again in the face of a wild gale, struck the upright.

Ulster rallied and some swift inter-play from scrum-half Ian Porter found his half-back partner Niall O'Connor, but he failed to gather the pass inside the Leinster 22 when the try-line beckoned.

The visitors pressed and were eventually rewarded with a penalty from the boot of O'Connor on the half-hour mark to give them a 3-0 lead, which they maintained into the half-time interval.

Ulster doubled their advantage via O'Connor's second penalty of the evening in front of the posts in the 48th minute. A Trevor Hogan surge past the halfway line instigated a spell of home pressure, but it was the composed O'Connor who capped off some more good work with his third successful kick to give Ulster a 9-0 lead.

In the closing minutes Chris Keane, Stephen Keogh and the industrious Eoin O'Malley each separately came close to scoring the game's opening try for the hosts, but it was too little too late as Ulster held out for the win.


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