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Nervous wait on Drico

Declan Kidney and his players received all the inspiration in the world from the Ireland U20s, who devastated a revered England 25-10 to move to the top of the Six Nations table on a significant points-difference at Kingshom last night.

"It all came together tonight," said assistant coach Nigel Carolan. "We absorbed pressure. We showed a lot of character, through our defence, and we took some of the opportunities that came our way."

It means Ireland are favourites for the championship given that they play Wales (Friday, March 12) and Scotland (Friday, March 19) at Dubarry Park.

Can they do it? "That is certainly the aim. Our last two games are at home. We want to capitalise on our good position," said Carolan.

It was an evening when man of the match Andrew Conway, the nipper who made his Leinster debut in the Magners' League last Saturday, announced himself as the real deal with two counter-attacking tries in a superb performance.

Indeed, St Mary's College's Darren Hudson supplied the third try and Blackrock College's Brian Kingston, coming in for out-half James McKinney with a half-an-hour to go, closed out the game with a 75th-minute penalty.



precautionary

Meanwhile, coach Declan Kidney is "hopeful" his captain Brian O'Driscoll will recover from a stomach bug to inspire Ireland to their sixth win in seven matches against England this afternoon.

Ireland's O'Driscoll did not take part in the captain's run yesterday, merely as a precautionary action taken in consultation with the management.

"I'm going to bed thinking he will wake up tomorrow looking forward to the game and that's what the medics say too," said Kidney.

"Brian was feeling a bit off so it was prudent for him not to train. He's not feeling great so there was no point pushing it on a day like today so he's back in the hotel resting up.

"The captain's run is just to blow a few cobwebs out after the travelling. In some cases it's better for a player not to train and that was the situation with Brian.

"We're quite hopeful that he'll be all right."

In the event of O'Driscoll being unable to play his part, Munster's Keith Earls would move to outside centre in a completely new partnership with Gordon D'Arcy and Ulster's Andrew Trimble would appear on the left wing with Paddy Wallace promoted to the bench.

Coach Kidney is also managing the ongoing knee injury to Stephen Ferris. The Ulsterman followed the same preparation that enabled him to start in Paris two weeks ago, also missing the Captain's run.

England coach Martin Johnson is under no illusion as to the size of the task. He issued a rallying call to his players as they look to make it three consecutive wins.

"It is a good game to be involved in and it comes at a good time for us, Ireland at home after two wins," said Johnson.

"Ireland come here as the best team from these islands, they certainly have that tag at the moment. It is a huge game. We will have to be better than we have been to beat them".

Elsewhere, Geordan Murphy is determined to mark his Test return by helping Ireland nudge their RBS Six Nations campaign back on track at Twickenham.

The champions saw their Grand Slam defence crumble in Paris a fortnight ago when tournament favourites France cruised to a surprisingly one-sided 33-10 victory.

Stung by a heavy defeat that concluded their 12-match unbeaten run, Ireland have consoled themselves by viewing the result as a minor blip at a traditionally unhappy hunting ground.

Murphy, who has been restored to the team after missing almost a year of Test duty because of a dislocated shoulder, believes victory over England will justify their self-belief.

"From speaking to the guys, there was a big sense of disappointment at their performance against France," said the Leicester full-back.

"I have been in that position before. It's a very difficult place to go especially when France get their tails up.

"France can be a tremendously difficult side to beat but we must move on now and make amends for it.

"This team has had some big wins over the last few years and that winning streak had to come to an end at some stage.

"It's a measure of the team seeing how disappointed the guys were to lose that match. Now we'll try and rectify it."

While Ireland spent the aftermath of their collapse at the Stade de France engaged in a period of soul-searching, England found themselves fending off the critics once again.

Savaged for a one-dimensional gameplan with the blinkered Jonny Wilkinson attracting special attention, manager Martin Johnson has been forced to offer a robust defence of his tactics and fly-half.

The fact remains, however, that victories over Wales and Italy have left them unbeaten and firmly in the title hunt with tomorrow's outcome offering the best indication yet of whether they are genuine contenders.



thumping

"The amount of stick England have had to take is probably unfair," said Murphy.

"They have won two games yet the media and the fans aren't happy with them. They seem to be doing a pretty good job.

"Sometimes people expect thumping great wins when it's pretty difficult to deliver that. But England are a very good side.

"We respect them. They have great players right across the board and it's going to be a really difficult game for us."

Murphy's path back into the Ireland team was cleared by his outstanding display against Gloucester last weekend. The 31-year-old won the last of his 63 caps in the Grand Slam-winning match against Wales last March and is handed the full-back duties after Rob Kearney was ruled out with a knee injury.

"Things have been going well for me at Leicester and I was pretty unfortunate to get that injury five games into the season," said Murphy.

"I dislocated my shoulder and it needed reconstruction, which was frustrating.

"But with any injury there is light at the end of the tunnel and once I was able to get training again it gave me a real lift.

"I felt good against Gloucester and was happy to get off the field.

"If everyone had been fit I am not too sure if I would be involved but who knows? I have played at Twickenham a lot.

"I've been around for a little while and its a fantastic pitch and great stadium and I am really looking forward to it."


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