DECLAN KIDNEY has made nine changes to his starting fifteen for Ireland’s third Rugby World Cup pool match, against Russia, in Rotorua on Sunday morning.
Leinster captain Leo Cullen will lead the side from the second row, filling in at number 5 in place of Paul O’Connell who is given the week off, as is the usual matchday captain Brian O’Driscoll.
Kidney has opted to utilise the depth of his squad all over the pitch for the Russia clash, with the opponents considered the weakest outfit in Ireland’s Pool C.
Elsewhere in the pack, Seán Cronin is brought in as hooker with Rory Best included among Kidney’s seven replacements, while Tony Buckley succeeds Mike Ross at tight-head prop.
Seán O’Brien retains his spot on the right side of Jamie Heaslip in the back row, while Donnacha Ryan is given the nod over Stephen Ferris.
Many of the changes from Ireland’s last match – a memorable 15-6 win over Australia – come in the backs, with the half-back pairing is changed completely from the Wallabies victory.
Ronan O’Gara is started at out-half, with Isaac Boss included over his Leinster teammate Eoin Reddan at scrum-half.
Rob Kearney keeps his starting berth at full-back, but the rest of the back line will see major changes – with O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy and Tommy Bowe all given a rest.
Keith Earls moves to outside centre where he will partner Paddy Wallace; Fergus McFadden and Andrew Trimble are introduced to the wings to complete the line-up.
Elsewhere in Ireland’s Pool C, Australia face the United States at 9:30am Irish time.
Ireland (v Russia, Sunday, kick-off 6am Irish time)
Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Keith Earls, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble; Ronan O’Gara, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Seán Cronin, Tony Buckley; Donncha O’Callaghan, Leo Cullen (capt); Donnacha Ryan, Seán O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Rory Best, Mike Ross, Denis Leamy, Shane Jennings, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Geordan Murphy.