Saturday 18 November 2017

Ireland unchanged for rescheduled France clash in Paris

Conor Murray retains his starting place at scrum-half. Photo; Getty Images
Conor Murray retains his starting place at scrum-half. Photo; Getty Images
Irelands strength and conditioning coach Bryan Cullen shares a joke with Coach Declan Kidney during a training session at Carton House, Co Kildare. Photo: PA
Conor Murray

IRELAND might not have been overly pleased with their performance against Italy last week, but coach Declan Kidney has firmly resisted calls for change ahead of Sunday's re-arranged game against France at the Stade de France.

Scrum-half Conor Murray, second row Donncha O'Callaghan and openside flanker Sean O'Brien were all perceived to be under pressure but Kidney, taking the view that Paris is rarely the place to experiment, has opted to retain the trio en bloc.

Murray just about holds off Eoin Reddan, while O'Callaghan is preferred at lock to his Munster colleague Donnacha Ryan, who has made a big impression during his two stints off the bench so far this season - against Wales and Italy.

Ryan is increasingly preferred to O'Callaghan by Munster, but for the time being the latter gets the nod at national level.

O'Brien might have been one of the players of the World Cup, but his form has dipped of late and young Munster tearaway Peter O'Mahony is considered such an outstanding prospect that he could, at any time, take over from a player - O'Brien - who was voted Europe's best in 2010-11. If nothing else the competition for places he brings to the backrow is keeping all concerned on their toes.

"We took a look at how we played against Italy," said Kidney. "We have an eight-day turnaround which has given us more time to freshen up.

"The errors that were made we can adjust and we'll be better for having that 80 minutes under the belt after the disruption of the postponed game two weeks earlier in Paris.

"The lads who came on against Italy did exceptionally well and made a hugely positive impact, but I had to weigh that up against the lads who did a lot of the unseen work earlier in the game."

Ireland's record in Paris makes for grim reading, having won in the French capital just once since 1972 and twice since 1952.

Their last victory came in 2000, in a match notable for the emergence of hat-trick hero Brian O'Driscoll, who misses this year's championship after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Since then France have emerged triumphant from 11 of their last 12 meetings.

Ireland XV: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster, capt), S Ferris (Ulster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster).

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