DECLAN KIDNEY HAS named an Ireland side that contains 10 of the Leinster players that captured this year’s Heineken Cup.
Brian O’Driscoll will captain a team that features Gordon D’Arcy, Mike Ross and Kevin McLaughlin as new additions to the side that lost 42-10 last weekend.
Simon Zebo has lost out to Andrew Trimble on the left wing but Fergus McFadden retains his spot on the right.
The temptation to draft in Sean Cronin and Eoin Reddan, two more who won the European Cup this year, has been resisted but Kidney has clearly backed the Leinster horse.
Munster’s Conor Murray is fortunate to hold off the pressing claims of Reddan to start at scrum-half.
The front row has a more recognisable feel to it as Mike Ross returns, having overcome his hamstring twinge.
Dan Tuohy, a player Kidney rates as a line-out disruptor, and Donnacha Ryan resume their burgeoning partnership in the second row.
A surprise, if welcome, inclusion comes in the form of Kevin McLaughlin at blindside flanker.
The Dubliner was magnificent in the foraging role for Leinster in their final victory over Ulster and freed up Sean O’Brien to carry more ball.
Peter O’Mahony is unfortunate to drop to the bench but he should feature for at least 25 in what promises to be a bruising match-up.
Kidney also had the option to switch Trimble to the right wing, where he has played well for Ulster, as it may have negated the sizeable threat of hat-trick hero Julian Savea on the All Black’s left flank.
Ireland have spoke all week about their abilities to provide a sterner test to the world champions if they cut down their error rate.
They will need to be flawless to achieve that on Saturday at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Kidney is backing the blues to make the difference.
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll (captain), Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Trimble; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Dan Tuohy, Donnacha Ryan, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Declan Fitzpatrick, Donncha O’Callaghan, Peter O’Mahony, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Simon Zebo.
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