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Ireland v Wales, Six Nations
Earls withdraws from Ireland line-up
ESPNscrum Staff
February 3, 2012
Ireland's Fergus McFadden exploits some space, Ireland v Russia, Rugby World Cup, Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua, New Zealand, September 25, 2011
Fergus Mcfadden has been promoted into the Ireland starting line-up to face Wales on Sunday © Getty Images
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Ireland's Keith Earls has pulled out of his side's Six Nations opener against Wales with Fergus McFadden promoted to the starting line-up and David Kearney drafted onto the replacements bench.

Earls, whose partner Edel gave birth to their first child Ella-Maye last week, hasn't trained all week and has opted to remain in Limerick to be with his partner and daughter after she was taken ill.

Speaking at a press conference, Ireland team manager Michael Kearney explained: "There has been one late change to the Irish team, Fergus McFadden has come in as a replacement for Keith Earls, who has been ruled out due to personal reasons.

"Unfortunately Keith's baby has been taken ill and is in hospital as we speak. The nature of the illness is unclear, however I did speak to Keith this morning and he was hopeful and optimistic that the baby would get home some time over the weekend.

"The decision was taken following a conversation with Declan [Kidney] and Keith yesterday and it was thought that it was in the best interests of Keith and his partner and their families that Keith remains in Limerick for the weekend.

"Fergus comes in, instead of Keith, and David Kearney has taken Fergus' place on the replacements bench."

Sunday's match will represent McFadden's third start in the Six Nations, following two outings on the right wing against Italy and France last season. The 22-year-old Kearney joins his older brother Rob and fellow uncapped player Peter O'Mahony in the matchday 22.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D'Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donnacha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell (c), Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara, David Kearney

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