The Ireland team to play Wales in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup at Wellington Regional Stadium this Saturday has been named.
Hooker Rory Best is continuing to receive treatment on his right shoulder. A final decision on his availability will be taken later in the week.
Should he fail to recover in time, Sean Cronin will start in the front row alongside Cian Healy and Mike Ross with Damien Varley coming onto the bench.
Head coach Declan Kidney commented:
“We have to put a team in 48 hours before kick-off. The decision (on Rory) could go right to the end, we’ll make it when we have to make it.
“I wouldn’t want to tempt fate by rating his chances, but he’s not ruled out which is always the first sign.
”He had a good day yesterday which everyone was very positive about. He’s making great progress and we’re taking it one day at a time.”
Otherwise the selected team is unchanged from last weekend’s 36-6 victory over Italy which confirmed Ireland’s presence in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
IRELAND: (15-9) Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray. (1-8) Cian Healy, Rory Best/Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. (16-22) Sean Cronin/Damien Varley, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble
Wales have not announced their team at the time of writing but with a full squad available it is unlikely to show many changes from their outing against Fiji with perhaps James Hook, Shane Williams and Dan Lydiate coming into the starting line up, or certainly into the team.
The big worry for Ireland has to be Best, and with his possible replacements already named in the team list above it isn’t looking good for the Ulster man. With the Welsh front row particularly strong it would be a big loss as Cronin hasn’t yet developed the front row savvy of Banbridge’s finest!
In a game as tight as this it is the small issues that make the difference and it may all come down to whether the Ulsterman plays or not. Looking through the likely selections there are close contests all over the park and both teams are equally matched in big game players and they are all familiar with each other’s play having faced each other in the Magners/PRO12 many times.
It’s a tired old cliché, but in this case it is true, it really is going to come down to who can handle the pressure of the occasion, and it’s here that Ireland do have a distinct advantage with Kidney over Gatland. The laconic Munster man is a past master at getting his teams to rise to the occasion and it must be recognised that he has played his cards remarkably well throughout this World Cup series.
It’ll be Kidney’s day and an extraordinary Semi Final appearance for Ireland beckons with the French more than likely the opponents.