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Wolves knock on door

LEINSTER'S Luke Fitzgerald or Ulster's Andrew Trimble will have to do 'a Craig Gilroy' to force Ireland coach Declan Kidney's hand ahead of the start of the Six Nations next week.

Tonight's Wolfhounds game is all about earning an opportunity and taking it, as Ulster's Gilroy surely did against Argentina in November.

Back then, Kidney backed himself into a corner by proclaiming he was ready to pick any player who stood out from the crowd of challengers for international honours.

Gilroy did just that when he skinned defenders left, right and straight in front of him for a hat-trick of tries against Fiji that earned him a shot at Argentina. He took that one too with a mesmerising try.

Since then, Gilroy has not been able to reproduce the same form, sometimes falling foul of Ulster coach Mark Anscombe's selection policy where the muscular Trimble has been viewed as a better option.

Anscombe's reason is quite obvious. There remains a doubt over the capacity of Gilroy to tackle his defensive duties as well as his attacking ones.

In international terms, the memory of Gilroy skating through a hardened Argentina defence is one that has lasted more than two months.

It will take a brave decision from Kidney to either insert Keith Earls at 13 with Brian O'Driscoll moving in one to 12 or to make that call between Simon Zebo, Earls and Gilroy for the two wing positions at the Millennium Stadium.

"The carrot is there. It is time to go out and perform now," said Wolfhounds captain James Coughlan, the Munster No 8.



Champing

"I am sure it is exactly the same for the Saxons. Those lads will be champing at the bit to show their coaches what they're worth and try and get into that elite group that they have as well."

The Irish Wolfhounds will have to show their sharpest teeth to put one over the England Saxons in Galway this evening.

"They're big men. They'll be coming over here to try to dominate us physically. It is a huge psyche I think that we'll have to take into the game."

Coach Kidney has shown a trust in youth that has not quite been to the forefront of his mindset in previous seasons. Last year, the Wolfhounds went down 23-17 to the Saxons at Sandy Park with the experience of Gavin Duffy, Isaac Boss, Brett Wilkinson, Damien Varley, Dan Tuohy, Mike McCarthy and John Muldoon.

This is a different group - there are no starters from that game in the first 15 - with form and youth on its side.

However, Kidney has no worries about the new kids, and spoke about Connacht pair Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry.

"At Robbie's age, there are loads of things he can achieve. Certainly for a lad just out of school, he has gone about his business really well.

"There are parts of his game that, technically, you could go after.



Younger

"To do what he's doing opens the door for a lot of younger fellas coming through to show if they're good enough they won't have to wait five or 10 years to do it.

"Robbie Henshaw seems to be doing it first year out of school. The possibilities for him are huge. It will just come down to avoiding injuries and his own application to it."

The Ireland coach also had re-assuring words for McSharry.

"He has really taken his game time very well.

"He is quite strong in what he's done. There are bits for him to work on.

"Once you get to work with them, you find out what their application is like. Both him and Robbie have been excellent. They have just been eating up the material."