herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

D'Arcy get green light for recovery

It is a measure of how much ground Ireland has recovered since the 2007 World Cup debacle that Declan Kidney has admitted he would have been satisfied to win "anything" when he first became Ireland coach.

"Coming into the job, people were saying this team is getting old. I thought that if we could be involved in winning anything it would be brilliant," he said.

The Grand Slam duly arrived after 61 years and he is now on the verge of scheming Ireland's fifth Triple Crown in seven years on what is set to be a truly historic day this Saturday.

"It's something that you dream about being involved in, especially on home soil and as part of a special occasion. It's a romantic ending that couldn't be orchestrated -- our last match at Croke Park with a Triple Crown to be won."

With this in mind, Kidney refused to make changes to his first team, though the temptation was there to tinker for the wider benefit of the squad.

"It took a fair bit of time really, not so much due to the quality of the lads who are picked, (but) due to the quality of the lads we haven't been able to give a start to," Kidney admitted.

Wing Keith Earls (calf), openside David Wallace (eye) and prop Cian Healy (shoulder) were all passed fit to play, preventing the promotion of Andrew Trimble, Shane Jennings and Tom Court.

"This is a huge match for us. There were several lads that I wanted to give a go to but it's just after falling this way. But, it wasn't just a case of 'well, we'll go with the same'. There was a fair bit of thought and discussion that went into it.

"It is not alone a Test match for representing Ireland. It is also our last match in Croke Park with the fact that there is a trophy at stake for us, should we manage to get something out of it."

The pre-condition to Kidney's selection is that centre Gordon D'Arcy mends from "deep bruising" above his left knee. It will be a massive test of his powers of recovery.

Otherwise, Paddy Wallace will slip seamlessly into the inside centre berth in preference to making several positional switches necessary to make room for Robert Kearney, who will start on the bench.

"When you pick your replacements, it is always a different dynamic than when you pick your starting XV. You have to try and get the best cover you can," said Kidney.

Scotland's backrow of John Beattie, John Barclay and Kelly Brown will be looking to sting Ireland. The most exciting aspect on the horizon is the mouth-watering collision between the respective world-class backrows.

"We know that the Irish backrows are up there probably with the best in the world, so it's another massive challenge for us, if we get given the chance," uttered Scotland No8 Beattie, careful not to take his place for granted.

Glasgow Warriors blindside Brown is expected to pass the same cognitive tests that Brian O'Driscoll had to do ahead of Ireland's test against Wales after a sickening clash of heads with England's Ugo Monye last Saturday.

"Myself, Kelly and John are pleased with the way things are going and we just want it to continue as long as we can and keep giving everything to it," said Beattie.

Coach Andy Robinson delayed naming his side for 24 hours -- it was due to be announced at lunchtime -- because of a spate of injuries, including tighthead Euan Murray, fly-half Phil Godman, fullback Hugo Southwell and wing Max Evans.

The importance of the Triple Crown for Ireland, and avoiding the wooden spoon for Scotland -- they have drawn one and lost three in this championship -- will ensure this will not have the atmosphere of a dead rubber. There is plenty on the line on Saturday.

IRELAND (v Wales): G Murphy; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; J Sexton, T O'Leary; C Healy, R Best, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, T Buckley, L Cullen, S Jennings; E Reddan, R O'Gara, R Kearney.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News