Kidney: I have new No 13 in mind
IRELAND coach Declan Kidney has chosen who will fill the boots of one of Test rugby's greatest players.
Brian O'Driscoll will miss the entire Six Nations after undergoing shoulder surgery, leaving an enormous hole at outside centre.
It is an impossibly tough act to follow, but Kidney has selected the player he wants to start at 13 against Wales on Sunday week.
"I have a fair idea in my mind who will replace Brian," he said.
"Keith Earls, Fergus McFadden, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble have all played well there in the past.
"There's even the option of having Paddy Wallace and Gordon D'Arcy there too."
Ireland have been given a challenging start to the Six Nations, with France in Paris arriving just six days after Wales.
The opener has taken on an air of a grudge match after the Welsh won the Celtic rivals' World Cup quarter-final last autumn.
Paul O'Connell, who has taken over the captaincy in the absence of O'Driscoll, insists it is vital they hit full throttle the moment the championship begins.
"We can't afford a slow start against Wales. We won't be able to start by playing anything other than to the best of our potential," O'Connell said.
"We lost to them in the quarter-final because we didn't play to our potential and paid the price. We need to put in a big performance."
'Wales must be fearless'
Sam Warburton wants Wales to adopt the same fearless approach that served them so well at the World Cup for the Six Nations.
Only a dramatic 9-8 defeat by France prevented Warren Gatland's side from reaching the final in a campaign that surpassed all expectations.
"It was a missed opportunity in New Zealand because we missed out on getting to the final," said Warburton.
"Maybe we were a little bit naive out there in that we didn't realise how big a stage we were playing on.
"We played each game as just another rugby match. We played with no fear and never went into our shells.
"That will probably be the same message this time - don't think too much about it.
"It's just another game of rugby."