Wednesday 25 April 2018

Kidney makes one change as determined Ireland head to Paris for battle with in-form France

Declan Kidney. Photo: Getty Images
Declan Kidney. Photo: Getty Images

IF Ireland are heading to Paris with a deep sense of injustice at the manner of Sunday's defeat by Wales, they are determined to keep it private.

The disciplinary hearing convened yesterday to examine Stephen Ferris' final-minute tackle on Ian Evans concluded the incident should not have incurred a penalty, never mind the yellow card or citing that followed.

It was a pivotal call by referee Wayne Barnes as Leigh Halfpenny steered the penalty between the uprights to snatch a last-gasp 23-21 victory for Wales.

The repercussions for Ireland are considerable as they now head to Paris - where they have prevailed just once since 1972 - desperate to rescue their Six Nations.

They may have been robbed of a momentum-building win by Barnes' decision, but coach Declan Kidney today refused to condemn the official.

"We're within 48 hours of another match. The record books will show that we've lost the last three times to Wales," said Kidney.

"While that's what history will show, everyone knows what happened in two out of three of them (also referring to last year's controversial Six Nations defeat in Cardiff).

"It is what it is, we can't do anything about it and we need to move on.

"We have a responsibility to the game. There's nothing to be gained from having those feelings (of grievance). That's the way life is."

Captain Paul O'Connell declined to make his opinion of the incident known, though he hinted that behind the scenes the squad is smarting.

"It's frustrates and disappoints guys but we're 48 hours out from a game now so we can't look backwards, only forwards. We must move on, there's nothing else we can do," he said.

Another controversy potentially looms on the horizon in the shape of the Arctic conditions forecasted for the Stade de France on Saturday night.

The temperature is expected to drop to minus seven by kick-off with lows of minus 10 recorded in Paris in recent days.

Tomorrow's captain's run has been cancelled and the covers on the pitch, which lacks under-soil heating, will be removed only an hour before kick off.

France winger Vincent Clerc has declared there is "reason for concern", but Kidney is reluctant to consider the ramifications of the weather at this stage.

"We've not discussed the temperature. We'll have to wait until we step off the plane and feel it," said Kidney.

"It's one of those uncontrollables. We just have to work off the premise that it will be the same for them as it is for us."

Whatever the conditions, Ireland will need to be at full throttle if they are to claim a rare victory over the World Cup finalists.

O'Connell, however, insists they are capable of causing an upset.

"It will be a massive challenge because they're an excellent side. They looked very good at times against Italy last weekend," said O'Connell.

"But when you look at our team and experience we have, we can certainly do it."

Kidney has made just one change for the trip to the French capital, restoring Keith Earls at outside centre.

Earls was named in the starting XV against Wales only to be withdrawn when his new-born baby girl was admitted into hospital with an unspecified illness.

The 24-year-old Munster back returned to the Irish camp at the start of the week and has replaced Fergus McFadden in the number 13 jersey.

McFadden drops to the bench with David Kearney losing his spot among the replacements.

"Keith has been buzzing since he came into the camp and has been training well," said Kidney.

"It's tough on Fergus losing out because he did a good job for us on Sunday, but Keith is worthy of a start."

Ireland team to play France at the Stade De France on Saturday, 11 February at 8pm:

Ireland: Kearney, Bowe, Earls, D'Arcy, Trimble, Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Ferris, O'Brien, Heaslip

Subs: Cronin, Court, Ryan, O'Mahony, Reddan, O'Gara, McFadden

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