IRELAND RUGBY COACH Declan Kidney has named an unchanged side for this Saturday’s crunch Rugby World Cup tie against Wales in Wellington.
Rory Best, the major injury doubt ahead of Ireland’s first quarter-final in eight years, is included in the side although he continues to receive treatment on his right shoulder, which continues to be a concern.
If Best cannot make it, Sean Cronin will be promoted from the replacements bench, to be replaced by Damien Varley – who was only called up to the squad to replace his injured Munster teammate Jerry Flannery.
Kidney warned that he was naming the team largely because of procedural requirements, but that the decision about naming Best “could go right to the end”.
“We’ll make it when we have to make it,” Kidney said. “I wouldn’t want to tempt fate by rating his chances.”
In the half-back line, Ronan O’Gara retains his number 10 shirt, preferred to Jonathan Sexton after his strong performance against the Italians, while Conor Murray is kept at scrum-half.
Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy reprise their partnership in the centre, with Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls – both of whom looked potent last week – returning to the wings, ahead of Rob Kearney at full-back.
With Best provisionally included at hooker, the front row – also featuring Cian Healy, who turns 24 on Friday, and Mike Ross – remains unchanged; Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan return in the second row, while Stephen Ferris and Sean O’Brien reform a fierce back row either side of Jamie Heaslip.
The match, which kicks off at 6am Irish time, will be broadcast live on RTÉ Two, and TheScore.ie will have its customary live blog.
Ireland (v Wales, Wellington, Saturday 6am)
Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell; Stephen Ferris, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin/Damien Varley, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble.