Wednesday 25 April 2018

Cheika backs forgotten Dempsey to fill Ireland full-back void

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

WITH Ireland facing a sudden lack of options at full-back for Saturday week's game in Twickenham, Leinster coach Michael Cheika has backed veteran Girvan Dempsey to fill the void.

Dempsey (34) hasn't featured for Ireland since the 2008 autumn Test against New Zealand and has been only sporadically involved for Leinster this season, but after Keith Earls' travails at No 15 in Paris, and with Rob Kearney and Geordan Murphy struggling with injury, Cheika backed the 34-year-old for an international recall.

"He's a quality operator and he's got a bank of experience in him that is so extensive that you couldn't even compare it to anyone else around in that position, not even our own player (Kearney) who is playing there at the moment," Cheika said. "I know that if he was called on he would do the job easily.

"He's been unfortunate because he was selected to play in both the (Magners League) games that got frozen out. He asked specifically to play the 'A' game last week against Exeter because he wanted to get sharper. He's been in excellent form."

However, a recall for the Terenure man, who is expected to play against Llanelli in the Magners League in the RDS on Saturday, seems unlikely.

Murphy managed 18 minutes for Leicester last weekend as his recovery continues, while Connacht's Gavin Duffy has impressed for the Wolfhounds in recent weeks.

Though Dempsey is likely to remain out of the picture, Kidney is sure to be keeping a close eye on the performances of his Leinster team-mates Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan and Sean O'Brien, who have been released back to the province for the weekend's action, ahead of the England showdown.

Hooker John Fogarty will also be keen to impress, given that Jerry Flannery looks set to be suspended, though the Leinster man is behind Connacht's Sean Cronin in Kidney's pecking order.

"I think that's an excellent programme the national management have put in place," said Cheika. "They have put a statement out there that they want their players to play rugby and be prepared for next week's game if any of these players are going to be selected."

Leinster comprehensively defeated the Scarlets in their Heineken Cup pool matches earlier in the season, but Cheika warned his side against complacency and recalled the 2007 Magners League encounter in which the Welsh region ran in six tries in a shock 52-23 win in the RDS.

"There is no fourth place for the Welsh teams now for the European Cup for next year. It's only the top three and they have got Cardiff down there with them, so there is a big fight going on in the Welsh provinces," he said.

"The Scarlets are on a bit of a resurgence. They are on a good run since those European Cup games against us and I think they'll fancy their chances coming here.

"This team from Leinster is continually haunted by the day they came up here and gave us a bashing. That can't help but come out every time because it was such a horrific feeling.

"That puts the fear in us every time we played them, that they could do it to us."

Retaining the Heineken Cup remains the priority but Cheika wants his side to secure a Magners League semi-final berth before they return to European duty against Clermont on April 9.

"Every step now is a step closer to the semi-finals. They are quite tangible now. We've played nine games but the split will start to come when teams play each other in the second round of games," he said.

"We play Scarlets, Cardiff, Glasgow and Connacht before we play Munster the week before the European Cup. They are important games for us because they could almost secure a semi-final spot by then."

Irish Independent

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