Tuesday 20 March 2018

Kidney urges Irish young guns to seize their chance

David Kelly

David Kelly

Declan Kidney has revealed it took him just minutes to decide to give youth its fling in Thomond Park tomorrow – and he has told his young guns that the sky is the limit against the flying Fijians.

"We've seen what they've done at U-20s and stuff like that and now this is their opportunity," declared Kidney.

Three Ulster stars – Craig Gilroy (21), Luke Marshall (21) and Paddy Jackson (20) – will start in a backline whose average age is just 23. Iain Henderson (20), one of six Ulster players rewarded for his team's unbeaten start to the season, will make his first start in a side that shows 12 changes to the one beaten by South Africa last weekend.

Captain Jamie Heaslip and Donncha O'Callaghan are the only two starters to have passed the half-century mark in caps; two-thirds of the team have won just 14 caps between them.

"I went out with an open mind to training on Monday and thought, 'let's see how they go'," Kidney said. "I think from about three minutes in I knew well that you can't not give these fellas a go here."

Kidney admitted that he has not yet made a firm decision on whether stand-in captain Heaslip will remain in the post after Brian O'Driscoll returns from injury.

"We'll deal with all that after November," said Kidney. "This is Jamie's time."

Scrum-half Eoin Reddan's ankle problem ruled him out of tomorrow's game and he is struggling to be fit for next week's crunch clash with Argentina, affording Paul Marshall a chance to become Ulster's fourth rookie of the day from the bench.

Irish Independent

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