Thursday 19 April 2018

Earls handed O'Driscoll's No 13 shirt as Ireland look to cover bases

David Kelly

David Kelly

Keith Earls will be given a licence to thrill by Declan Kidney in tomorrow's World Cup warm-up clash with France in Bordeaux.

The Munster star steps into the role which is still vacated by the recovering Brian O'Driscoll as Kidney admits that Ireland must start planning for life after their Grand Slam-winning captain.

"Brian is going to play for another two years, and we have to have some plans for the future," said Kidney. "The overall plan is that we have as many eventualities as possible covered before we get on the plane.

"You're never going to cover off all of them, but if we get 70 or 80pc of the way there, well and good. And this is one, should Brian not make a match."

Ireland have made nine changes, one positional, to the side that lost in Murrayfield to Scotland last week ahead of the first of two back-to-back games against the French.


O'Driscoll, who has been struggling with a neck problem, is likely to be fit for the return tie in the Aviva Stadium next week.

Also penned in for a return to action are Tommy Bowe, who resumed training yesterday after twisting his foot last week, and David Wallace, who has been "resting".

Of the other walking wounded, Stephen Ferris is "playing a much greater part in training now," according to Kidney.

Geordan Murphy resumed training with the squad yesterday, but while Gordon D'Arcy has also been involved in some contact work, Kidney insists that he will not rush any of his injured players.

"Patience is a big part of this, because you want to get them right, to give them every chance of going to the World Cup," he said.

"You don't want to be forcing a fella to play to try to prove something and then him losing his World Cup because you're after pushing him into that position."

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