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National News


Ireland Rugby Team to Play Italy and Eddie O Sullivan's Comments
Wednesday, 30th January 2008

Centre Brian O'Driscoll will win his 80th cap for Ireland this Saturday when he leads the team out to play Italy at Croke Park in the opening game of the 2008 RBS 6 Nations championship.



Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan has named Geordan Murphy on the left wing, with Ulster’s Andrew Trimble named on the right wing. At half back, Ireland's record points scorer Ronan O'Gara will continue his partnership with Eoin Reddan, who will win his sixth cap at scrum half.



In the forwards, prop John Hayes will also be reaching the landmark of 80 Test caps in a front row that sees the return of Rory Best to the starting line-up. Second row Malcolm O’Kelly also returns to the starting fifteen to extend his Ireland caps record to 92.

Commenting on his team selection, coach O'Sullivan said: "There were a couple of difficult calls to make. The front row was hard because Rory has played very well since recovering from injury, but (Bernard) Jackman pushed him close.



"We looked at Jamie Heaslip because of his form but, on balance, we decided to leave the back row as it is. Scrum half was a tight call as well. It could have gone either way between Reddan and Stringer."



IRELAND TEAM AND REPLACEMENTS (v Italy, 2008 RBS 6 Nations, Croke Park, Saturday, February 2, kick-off 2pm):



Player / Club / Caps



15 - Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College/Leinster) 78



14 - Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster) 19



13 - Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) 79 (capt)



12 - Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster) 36



11 - Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers) 53



10 - Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster) 77



9 - Eoin Reddan (London Wasps) 5



1 - Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster) 51



2 - Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 17



3 - John Hayes (Bruff/Munster) 79



4 - Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 40



5 - Malcolm O’Kelly (St. Mary's College/Leinster) 91



6 - Simon Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets) 62



7 - David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster) 41



8 - Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster) 27



Replacements:



16 - Bernard Jackman (Clontarf/Leinster) 4



17 - Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster) 2



18 - Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster) 11



19 - Jamie Heaslip (Clontarf/Leinster) 3



20 - Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster) 79



21 - Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster) 6



22 - Robert Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 1



Not Considered:



Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster) {suspension}



Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster) {back}



ON HIS TEAM SELECTION:

"I wouldn't say loyalty plays a factor. It's down to form and the form over the last two months really, looking at the guys who played. For that reason we've some new faces in the 22.



"Facing into the Six Nations, the guys on the field, to me, are the form guys. We won't get everyone to agree on that but that's always been the case when you pick a fifteen."



EDDIE ON HOW THE TEAM WAS PICKED:



"There was no decision made on the final fifteen until last night (Monday). I'll always believed on waiting to the final minutes before making up my mind because you've got to weigh things up and mull things over.



"We were naming the team this morning (Tuesday) so there wasn't any real pressure to make a decision until last night. I sat down last night with Niall (O'Donovan) and weighed everything up. There were some tough calls, at hooker, in the back row, which there always are, and number 9 even."



ON THE 2008 SIX NATIONS TOURNAMENT:



"I think every year we say this is the most open championship of all time, but I think this one definitely is. If you look through the six teams, no one knows really where anybody is.



"England had a tough Six Nations but got to a World Cup final. France, who won the Six Nations, have a lot of changes in their squad - we don't know where they'll be, they've a new coaching regime.



"Italy have a new coaching regime, Wales the same. Scotland are probably the team we know most about and expect most from in terms of we know where they are and where they're going.



"But other than that, it's pretty much wide open. I think we've learned in recent years that the one thing about the Six Nations tournament is that on any given day, any other team can beat the other and that's probably what you want in a tournament."



ON THE CHALLENGE ITALY WILL POSE:



"We know the type of game that they play but we can't overread that as they've a new coach (Nick Mallett) and things may be different in certain areas, he may opt to change things around.



"But we know that they always bring an incredible amount of physicality and passion. They're hugely physical games when you play Italy, I think they're the most physical pack in the Six Nations bar none.



"The squad he's picked, there'll be changes at half-back for sure. They're missing (Marco) Bortolami out of their pack but I don't think there will be sweeping changes."



All above courtesy of the IRFU



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