Thursday 22 February 2018

Declan Kidney calls on debut duo Zebo and Fitzpatrick

Simon Zebo during squad training ahead of the Steinlager Series 2012 against New Zealand. Photo: Sportsfile
Simon Zebo during squad training ahead of the Steinlager Series 2012 against New Zealand. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has rung the changes for the first Test against New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday, with debuts for Simon Zebo and Declan Fitzpatrick.

The uncapped duo have been drafted in for Saturday's match in Auckland, with Munster's Zebo named on the left wing and Fitzpatrick, of Ulster, in at tighthead prop.



Elsewhere in the XV Keith Earls will partner captain Brian O'Driscoll in the centre and Fergus McFadden has been named on the right wing.



Dan Tuohy will partner Donnacha Ryan in the second row and Peter O'Mahony comes in at flanker alongside Leinster duo Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip. Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan form the half-back axis.



Mike Ross' hamstring injury has ruled him out of the matchday squad so Ulster prop Fitzpatrick comes in to make his debut. He will be joined in the front row by Rory Best and Cian Healy.



Kidney said: "When you are playing the world champions in their own back yard in their first game after the World Cup, you have to be on the top of your game. There's no secrets around any of that. But we believe that if we are then we're well in with a shout."



Of Zebo's promotion to the starting side, Kidney added: "Simon has been going well and he took his opportunity in the Barbarians match 10 days ago. He has been playing consistently, and well, on the left wing and I see that as an advantage."



All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has also named new faces in his team, pairing uncapped scrum-half Aaron Smith with fly-half Dan Carter.



There are also Test bows for lock Brodie Retallick and winger Julian Savea, while Victor Vito has come in to replace the injured flanker Jerome Kaino.



Richie McCaw captains a team that features Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith at centre.



Speaking about the new caps, Hansen said: "We picked them in the series squad because they have all shown that they have special qualities. They now get the opportunity to show that on the international stage."

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