Thursday 14 December 2017

Murphy in line for recall as Kearney injury fears mount

Hugh Farrelly

JONATHAN SEXTON and Peter Stringer are set to start their first Ireland international together when coach Declan Kidney names his side at lunchtime today for Sunday's clash with Argentina.

Out-half Sexton was partnered alongside his Leinster club-mate Eoin Reddan in the defeats to South Africa and New Zealand, with Stringer starting alongside Ronan O'Gara in the 20-10 win over Samoa. If they are paired together today, Sexton will be looking to use Stringer's swift delivery to get his backline moving against Argentina.

Full-back Rob Kearney and left wing Luke Fitzgerald are ruled out with knee injuries and there are fears that Kearney's situation is worse than first thought and could sideline him for a lengthy period. That would be a major blow for Leinster and Ireland, but Leicester's Geordan Murphy is ready to slot in at 15 for his first start since the defeat to Scotland last March.

Ulster's Andrew Trimble could come onto the left wing in Fitzgerald's absence, which would mean no room in the starting backline for Munster's Keith Earls if Kidney sticks with the midfield partnership of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy.

Tony Buckley could come straight back in at tight-head prop with Sean Cronin, having an excellent November, likely to replace the injured Rory Best at hooker alongside Cian Healy at loose-head.

Donncha O'Callaghan and Mick O'Driscoll could continue their second-row partnership and, injury permitting, Ireland could stick with a back-row of Stephen Ferris, David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip.

Ferris (calf) and Wallace (Achilles) have been nursing knocks this week and if they are deemed not match-fit, Kidney has ready-made replacements in Denis Leamy and Sean O'Brien.

IRELAND (possible) -- G Murphy; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, A Trimble; J Sexton, P Stringer; C Healy, S Cronin, T Buckley; D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll; S Ferris/D Leamy, D Wallace/S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

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