Ireland set sights on Triple Crown
March 17, 2010
Ireland's free-scoring back Keith Earls will be hoping to add to his three-try tally in this year's Championship © Getty Images
Ireland and Scotland have named unchanged sides for their Six Nations showdown at Croke Park on Saturday.
The game will be Ireland's last at the home of the Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) and could bring a fifth Triple Crown since 2004. Gordon D'Arcy has been retained at inside-centre pending a fitness test on a bruised knee while Leicester fullback Geordan Murphy has again seen off the challenge of Rob Kearney. Should D'Arcy fail to prove his fitness Paddy Wallace will be promoted from outside the squad in order to partner Brian O'Driscoll in midfield.
Jonathan Sexton starts at fly-half ahead of Ronan O'Gara despite an erratic display from the kicking tee in the victory over Wales while Keith Earls and David Wallace have shaken off calf and eye problems respectively. Loosehead Cian Healy has recovered from a shoulder problem and starts alongside Rory Best and John Hayes in the front-row.
Ireland are heavy favourites to complete the Triple Crown but retain little hope of successfully defending their title. Kidney's men need England to win against France in Paris as well as take a hefty bite out of Les Bleus' plus 50 points difference. Defeat for Scotland, meanwhile, would mean the wooden spoon.
Scotland flanker Kelly Brown had been an injury doubt after suffering a sickening clash of heads with England wing Ugo Monye in last weekend's Calcutta Cup draw at Murrayfield. But he is currently satisfying medical protocols and is on course to start at Croke Park.
There are changes on the bench, however, with lock Nathan Hines ruled out due to a knee injury. Richie Gray is therefore recalled among the substitutes. Co-captain Mike Blair and prop Alastair Dickinson have both recovered from concussion and replace Rory Lawson and Geoff Cross, respectively.
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster); T O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin (Connacht), T Buckley (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster), S Jennings (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), R Kearney (Leinster)
Scotland: H Southwell (Stade Francais); S Lamont (Scarlets), N De Luca (Edinburgh), G Morrison (Glasgow), M Evans (Glasgow); D Parks (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Glasgow, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton), J Hamilton (Edinburgh), A Kellock (Glasgow), K Brown (Glasgow), J Barclay (Glasgow), J Beattie (Glasgow).
Replacements: S Lawson (Gloucester), A Dickinson (Gloucester), R Gray (Glasgow), A MacDonald (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh), P Godman (Edinburgh), S Danielli (Ulster).
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (SA)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (SA), Jerome Garces (Fra)
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