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Keith Earls to start against the French ?
Earls To Start ?
2 February 2010, 11:14 am
Reading between the lines of what Ireland manager Paul McNaughton had to say at yesterday's press conference expect Keith Earls to be named in the Ireland starting XV for Saturday's RBS Six Nations game against France in Paris.
According to McNaughton Trimble's hamstring 'is a bit of a worry' and a notoriously difficult injury to tidy up and it would therefore be a huge gamble to select Trimble ahead of Earls.

Although McNaughton also revealed that Stephen Ferris hasn't been able to put weight on his injured knee, he is expected to be fit, and while it must be assumed Donncha O'Callaghan will return to partner Paul O'Connell, it depends on whether or not his injury will allow him do so.

In the event that Ferris is ruled out, then Kevin McLaughlin will likely retain the number 6 shirt while Leo Cullen will continue alongside O'Connell if O'Callaghan doesn't make it. Otherwise those who started against Italy will do so again. Last weekend's form might suggest Rob Kearney is under pressure but indifferent form in one game doesn't suddenly make him a bad player. He will retain the 15 jersey and we should see him return to the form that makes him one of the best in the business.

Media speculation today that Ronan O'Gara might cede the number 10 jersey to Jonathan Sexton is as likely as George Lee re-joining Fine Gael. When O'Gara went through the 500 Championhip points mark against Italy it was the 31st successive time he has been on the scoreboard for Ireland in the competition.

The return to fitness of Sexton does raise the question of the bench and whether or Declan Kidney will go with Paddy Wallace who can cover out-half and centre or Sexton who is an out and out 10 and short of game time.

Ireland (probable): R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll capt, G D'Arcy, K Earls; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; C Healy, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip. Replacements: R Best, T Court, K McLaughlan, L Cullen, E Reddan, P Wallace, AN Other.

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