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Ferris offered fitness chance

Coach Declan Kidney will give Stephen Ferris every chance to make the Ireland side to play France in Paris on Saturday.

"I wouldn't like to put a deadline on it. We will make it as quick as we can. But, sometimes you don't make a decision until you have to," said Kidney, in the clear hope that Ferris will come through towards the end of the week.

"You have to get a balance right between (that and) being honest with the other guys that are in contention -- Kevin (McLaughlin) went well the last day. It always takes a generosity of spirit from the guys to feed into that ethic."

The decision -- Jonathan Sexton's injury -- that Kidney was saved from making for the out-half slot last week was finally delivered in favour of Ronan O'Gara for the Paris clash.

Kidney has made a career out of getting the close calls right. He has already built a greater sense of the collective, in terms of those outside the immediate 22, than his predecessor Eddie O'Sullivan.

He is not blinkered by a sense of loyalty to the place -- Munster -- where he comes from. After all, he selected Sexton over O'Gara against South Africa in November. He has a gift for seeing clearly what others view as a haze.

The theory was that Kidney had a choice to make between the far superior defensive capabilities of Sexton over the negligible advantages O'Gara enjoys in terms of kicking, tactical and placed balls, and distribution.

So O'Gara has been nominated to continue as the pivot, with Sexton scheduled to make an impact from the bench in the event of accident, injury or loss of form of the Munster man.

"Ronan had a very good game the last day (against Italy). From that point there is no reason not to play him again this week," said Kidney. "Jonathan is making a good recovery, the final stage of that will be completed today when he goes place-kicking again. We are in the lucky position of having two good out-halfs. With Ronan's experience, it will be helpful when we go to Paris".

Elsewhere, Kidney believes Keith Earls "deserves his go now" even though Andrew Trimble "hasn't done anything wrong". Leo Cullen holds on in the second row because "Donncha (O'Callaghan) trained this morning, but he just wasn't right".

Full-back Robert Kearney will have to recover his confidence from what was a lack-lustre display in Croke Park. There were times when he looked distracted or far too casual against Italy.

The Louth man has earned a vaunted reputation on foot of his British and Irish Lions form last summer. He will be the last line of defence and the first point of attack on the counter.

The Irish players will look over their shoulders for the sign of a player in command of his position. They need Kearney back to his security blanket best in what is a pressurised arena.

Meanwhile, France coach Marc Lievremont has bemoaned the selection of Welshman Nigel Owens as the referee.

"I feel sad because it's a bit recurring. We can't forget that last year in Dublin, there were 13 penalties against us and two against Ireland," he said.

It is difficult to argue with Lievremont over the appointment of Owens, the man in the middle when Munster and Leinster won the Heineken Cup in 2007/08 and 2008/09 respectively.

Ireland (v France): R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; C Healy, J Flannery, J Hayes, L Cullen, P O'Connell, A N Other, D Wallace, J Heaslip.


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