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O’Gara to face old friend Contepomi

IRELAND v BARBARIANS, Kingsholm, Tonight (KO 7.35) - Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara and Barbarians lock Mick O’Driscoll will go head-to-head for the first and last time as captains at Kingsholm, the home of Premiership club Gloucester tonight.

Coach Declan Kidney has gone for proven combinations in order to enact the best possible brand of fluency from what is an ‘Ireland A’ selection by any other name.

Conor Murray and O’Gara will form a Munster half-back partnership; Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave an Ulster centre axis looking to involve the exciting back three of Keith Earls, at full-back, Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo.

It is a matter of necessity to see how props Brett Wilkinson and Declan Fitzpatrick can adapt away from the shelter of what they know as their home provinces.

The uncertain injury cloud that hovers over Leinster’s Cian Healy and Mike Ross places a demand on both of them to learn quickly – very quickly.

Mike Sherry, a player of undoubted natural talent, has been undermined by below par throwing that is the hallmark of any hooker worth his weight in silver.

This could be a serious opportunity for Ulster’s Dan Tuohy to confirm his development as a legitimate international alternative to Paul O’Connell or, indeed, Donnacha Ryan.

There isn’t a Leinster man to be seen, given the exertions of the last two weeks, other than the appearance on the Barbarians bench of Isa Nacewa, the two-try contributor to the PRO12 League final.

For Ireland, Munster lead the way with seven contributors. There are six of Ulster’s vanquished Heineken Cup squad on the first 15, four on the bench, and two from Connacht in the shape of prop Wilkinson and flanker John Muldoon.

The Babas coach John Kirwan has called on former Leinster talisman Felipe Contepomi and a stock of world-known internationals, like Georgian beast Mamuka Gorgodze, to present what will be a major test, despite the invitation side’s hasty amalgamation.

IRELAND: K Earls; C Gilroy, D Cave, P Wallace, S Zebo; R O’Gara (capt), C Murray; B Wilkinson, M Sherry, D Fitzpatrick, D Tuohy, D Ryan, J Muldoon, C Henry, P O’Mahony.

BARBARIANS: C Heymans (France); P Sackey, M Tindall (both England), D Traille (France), S Tagicakibau (Samoa); F Contepomi (Argentina), R Lawson (Scotland); D Jones (Wales), B August (France), J Afoa (New Zealand), M O’Driscoll (capt), C van Zyl (Italy), M Gorgodze (Georgia), F Louw (South Africa), R Lakafia (France).


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