Tuesday 20 February 2018

Kidney to stick with familiar faces as O'Gara and Kearney near fitness

Kidney will name just one squad for the three matches, but could draft in extra players for the Fiji match at Thomond Park.
Kidney will name just one squad for the three matches, but could draft in extra players for the Fiji match at Thomond Park.
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

FANS hoping for sweeping post-Hamilton changes look set to be disappointed today when Declan Kidney names his squad for Ireland's November internationals.

Despite losing 60-0 to New Zealand in a record defeat last June, the Ireland coach is expected to stick with the old reliables in his 30-man panel for the three-match Guinness Series, which kicks off with a daunting clash against South Africa at Lansdowne Road on November 10.

There was good news on the injury front for the Corkman as Stephen Ferris looks set to start for Ulster against the Dragons on Friday, while Paul O'Connell has come through his recovery well and Ronan O'Gara and Rob Kearney have given positive bulletins on their injuries.

While the squad will be a familiar one, there will be room for experimentation in the second fixture against Fiji, even though some of the injury issues that have assailed a number of frontliners since the start of the season means they could require game time in between the meetings with the Springboks and Argentina.

Kidney will name just one squad for the three matches, but could draft in extra players for the Fiji match at Thomond Park.

Leinster's South African-born hooker Richardt Strauss is among those who look set to be called in for that game, while Connacht youngsters Kieran Marmion and Robbie Henshaw are believed to have impressed the coaches in their breakthrough seasons.

But when it comes to the two bigger games at Lansdowne Road, it looks likely to be familiar faces as Ireland battle to hold on to their world ranking -- which could prove crucial ahead of the World Cup pool draws in December.

The big question marks will come at scrum-half, where Tomas O'Leary will push Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan after returning to form, and openside flanker, where Peter O'Mahony and Chris Henry look set to get the nod ahead of in-form Shane Jennings and Sean Dougall in Sean O'Brien's absence.

In contrast to Kidney, South Africa's Heyneke Meyer is likely to name an experimental 32-man panel for his side's European tour after the conclusion of the Currie Cup this weekend, with a number of established names injured.

Irish Independent

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