Celtic rivals set for Croke Park showdown
March 10, 2010
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll will make his 100th appearance for his country against Wales this weekend © Getty Images
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has kept faith with Leicester fullback Geordan Murphy for their Six Nations clash with Wales at Croke Park on Saturday, naming the fit-again Rob Kearney on the bench.
Kidney's other major selection conundrum came at fly-half, where Jonathan Sexton has again seen off competition from Ronan O'Gara to start. Elsewhere the team is unchanged from the one that came away from Twickenham with a morale-boosting victory over England two weeks ago, with skipper Brian O'Driscoll set to win his 100th Ireland cap.
He partners Gordon D'Arcy in midfield , with Twickenham try-scorers Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls named alongside Murphy in the back-three. Kearney takes the place of Ulster's Andrew Trimble on the bench.
"At the start you want to get as many caps as possible, but you never look and hope to attain 100," O'Driscoll said. "I've always approached it like the next game in a green shirt is my last. With that policy you can't go far wrong. And it's not over yet."
Up front, Donncha O'Callaghan will win his 60th cap in the second-row. Paul O'Connell starts alongside him while the impressive back-row of Stephen Ferris, David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip remains intact despite Heaslip suffering an ankle knock against England.
Wales captain Ryan Jones has been ruled out of the game with Gloucester's Gareth Delve taking over the No.8 jersey and Martyn Williams the captaincy. Delve was called up to the squad on Monday due to Jones' ongoing struggle with a calf injury and slots into the back-row alongside Williams and blindside Jonathan Thomas. The in-form No.8 has not played a Test since Wales' 2008 summer tour to South Africa.
There are starts in the pack for Dragons lock Luke Charteris, who replaces injured Blues second-row Deiniol Jones, and Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees. Rees replaces Huw Bennett in the front-row, with Paul James continuing to deputise for the injured Gethin Jenkins at loose head. Ospreys veteran Ian Gough returns to the matchday squad on the bench while Saracens loose-head Rhys Gill is again in line for a Test debut.
Richie Rees starts his second Test at scrum-half and there is a recall on the bench for Sale's Dwayne Peel following a knock sustained by Mike Phillips in the Ospreys' weekend defeat to Edinburgh. The rest of the backline remains unchanged following a narrow defeat to France last time out, with Shane Williams and Leigh Halfpenny out to add to their two tries in their previous two Tests. James Hook and Jamie Roberts remain in the centre and Stephen Jones wears No.10.
"Ryan has been managing his calf, but it has hampered his involvement in training," Wales coach Warren Gatland said. "He needs to get it right for his own sake, as well as for his region, who have some big matches of their own coming up, and for the sake of the national cause as we count down to the World Cup.
"But it is an opportunity for Martyn, who is one of our key leaders, to captain Wales again and rise to that challenge after doing a good job against Scotland last year when Ryan was again forced to withdraw. This is is a great opportunity for Gareth Delve, who we have been keeping a close eye on and who is also a leader himself."
Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Ospreys) J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), R Rees (Cardiff Blues); P James (Ospreys), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), J Thomas (Ospreys), M Williams (Cardiff Blues, capt), G Delve (Gloucester)
Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), R Gill (Saracens), I Gough (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), D Peel (Sale), A Bishop (Ospreys), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues)
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)
Referee: Craig Joubert (SA)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (Eng), Peter Allan (Sco)