Friday 18 January 2019

Reddan ready for shock start after O'Leary scare

LEINSTER's Eoin Reddan could be in line to start at scrum-half against France on Sunday after Tomás O'Leary injured his back in Ireland training yesterday.

The Munster man endured a torrid time in Rome last weekend and was tipped to be dropped by Declan Kidney, but he kept faith in his fellow Corkman. Peter Stringer has been called into the squad as cover.

Ireland could see their ambitions to secure a second Grand Slam in three seasons disappear in a flash. It will take every ounce of weight in the scrum, every inch of height propelled high by lifters at the lineout, every degree of precision on the ball and every one of the players to trust the game plan.

On the face of it, France looked nigh on irresistible in Paris. They have the power in the front row, the beef at lock and the athleticism in the back row to get ball and keep it. In behind, their little general Morgan Parra is the key participant as a savvy sniper, passer and facilitator for the big runners coming off his shoulder.

Further out, there is pace to burn, muscle to bustle, experience to wield. The most obvious weakness comes in the form of their out-half Francois Trinh-Duc's capacity to implode.

Ireland have a history, particularly at provincial level, of transforming their performances within the space of a week.


If they return to the one-off runners, the one-dimensional, bash it up the middle off first phase and the simple mistakes that littered their time in Rome, they will surely be bludgeoned by their opponents.

There is enough know-how, excellence and sheer bloody- minded lust for battle to consume or, at least, hold France steady long enough so that the hometown advantage can come into play.

There was steel in captain Brian O'Driscoll's words this week that spoke of a man hurting from what happened in Rome. He will not suffer foolish behaviour again.

They are outsiders at home. They need a big one. They need the home crowd to be there for them.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland: L Fitzgerald; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; J Sexton, T O'Leary; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S O'Brien, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

France: C Poitrenaud; Y Huget, A Rougerie, D Traille, M Medard; F Trinh-Duc, M Parra; T Domingo, W Servat, N Mas, J Pierre, L Nallet, T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, I Harinordoquy.

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