Saturday 20 January 2018

Paul O'Connell ready for comeback against Wales

D'Arcy all set to resume O'Driscoll partnership for showdown at the Aviva

Ireland's Paul O'Connell in action during squad training
Ireland's Paul O'Connell in action during squad training
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

PAUL O'CONNELL and Rob Kearney look set to be passed fit as the storm clouds begin to gather over Dublin for Ireland's Six Nations grudge match against Wales.

The captain, who was ruled out of last weekend's opening-day win over Scotland with a chest infection, is still being monitored, but it appears likely that he will be named to start alongside Devin Toner in the second- row.

Kearney sat out training on Tuesday with a calf injury, but is believed to have overcome the knock and should take to the field for today's session.

Gordon D'Arcy is expected to get the nod ahead of Luke Marshall and, along with the return of the skipper, his inclusion alongside Brian O'Driscoll, this is likely to be the only other change to the team that beat the Scots.

Fergus McFadden has been pushing hard for selection all week after making an impact off the bench against the Scots, but Andrew Trimble's size could see him continue on the right wing, with Dave Kearney expected to hold onto his position on the left.

Up front, Cian Healy should shake off the knock that kept him out of part of training earlier this week to join battle with Adam Jones alongside Rory Best and Mike Ross.

Joe Schmidt will name his team at 1.0 this afternoon at the squad's base in Maynooth and he will be keeping a close eye on the weather forecast throughout the next 48 hours.

Currently, the outlook is bleak, with the storms that battered the country earlier this week likely to return in time for kick-off.

Given his desire for a precision game plan and the lack of atmosphere at Lansdowne Road for last year's washouts against France and England, Schmidt will be hoping the rainclouds stay away until after full-time.

Yesterday, both O'Driscoll and Warren Gatland made further moves to diffuse any tensions ahead of their first meeting since the Wales coach's decision to drop the former captain from his Lions team to face Australia in the decisive third Test last summer.

"The Welsh fixture, a lot is going to be made of it, but from my point of view, wounds have healed from my own personal disappointment that I had in June, July," O'Driscoll told BT Sport.

"And obviously I have absolutely no animosity towards Warren, he did what he did for the betterment of the team.

"You get over those things and you move on. We're in a different competition with different teams and all I'll be trying to do is get the better of his team."

Wales coach Gatland made an appearance on Irish radio in an attempt to further defuse any hostilities over his decision to cut Brian O'Driscoll from his Lions team for the final Test last summer.

But he admitted the issue would remain a talking point, despite the efforts of both he and the Irish captain to dampen down the hype.

"That's part of sport, it's why we're involved and if everything was predictable and boring then we wouldn't be interested and we wouldn't be watching," Gatland told Newstalk.

With four Tests remaining in his glittering career, O'Driscoll believes Ireland have what it takes to mount a title charge. "I think we're in a good place," he said.

Ireland (possible) v Wales: R Kearney; A Trimble, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, D Kearney; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross; D Toner, P O'Connell; P O'Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip.

Irish Independent

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