IRELAND COACH DECLAN Kidney has taken the brave decision of dropping Ronan O’Gara for this Sunday’s pivotal Six Nations trip to face Scotland.
Until yesterday, the 127-cap veteran had been expected to reprise the number 10 shirt after a hamstring injury to Jonathan Sexton.
Today though, Kidney confirmed that Ulster’s 21-year-old out-half Paddy Jackson would instead be trusted with the reins as Ireland’s latest European campaign comes to a half-way point.
Jackson will make his debut alongside his fellow uncapped Ulster team-mate, Luke Marshall, in a back-line which, with the exception of Conor Murray, is completely overhauled from the November defeat to South Africa at the Aviva Stadium.
Donnacha Ryan is named in the second row, despite medics closely monitoring a back problem he aggravated against England on February 10.
Ahead of him, Tom Court is another surprise selection at loose-head, Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne had expected to be next in line due to inclusion in the squad on the opening two weekends, but the Australian-born Court has excelled both in tight and loose exchanges this season as Ulster opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the RaboDirect Pro12.
On the bench, a nightmarish period for Luke Fitzgerald looks to be at an end as he is invited back into the playing squad for the first time since August 2011. He is joined among the replacements by Devin Toner and Iain Henderson, both of whom could be called upon to play some time in the second row. The latter will hope to win his third cap and a first appearance in the Six Nations.
Ireland (v Scotland): R Kearney; C Gilroy, B O’Driscoll, L Marshall, K Earls; P Jackson, C Murray. T Court, R Best, M Ross; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, J Heaslip (capt.)
Replacements: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, D Fitzpatrick, D Toner, I Henderson; E Reddan, R O’Gara, L Fitzgerald.