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New Zealand 42 Ireland 10: Julian Savea scores hat-trick

New Zealand 42 Ireland 10: All Blacks blow tourists away with Savea's hat-trick debut

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UPDATED:

10:54 GMT, 9 June 2012

Debutant winger Julian Savea scored a hat-trick to inspire New Zealand to an impressive win over Ireland at Eden Park.

The Irish had no answer for the pace and power of world champions' backline and the Hurricanes winger ran in three tries inside the first 43 minutes of his first international outing.

The running lines and swift incisions of Israel Dagg, Conrad Smith and Savea caused Ireland problems throughout and coach Declan Kidney will need to come up with a way of negating the dangerous New Zealand backs if Ireland are to avoid a series sweep.

Going over: Julian Savea Blacks runs in to score his first try for the All Blacks

Going over: Julian Savea Blacks runs in to score his first try for the All Blacks

Match facts

New Zealand: Dagg, Guildford, C Smith,
S Williams, Savea, Carter, A Smith, Woodcock, Hore, O. Franks, Retallick, S Whitelock, Vito, McCaw, Read. Replacements: Elliot, B. Franks, A. Williams, Thomson, Weepu, Cruden, B. Smith.

Tries: Savea (3), Thomson, C Smith
Conversions: Carter (4)
Penalties: Carter (3)

Ireland: Kearney, McFadden, O'Driscoll, Earls, Zebo, Sexton, Murray, Healy, Best, Fitzpatrick, Tuohy, Ryan, O'Mahony, O'Brien, Heaslip. Replacements: Cronin, Loughney, O'Callaghan, McLaughlin, Reddan, O'Gara, Cave.

Tries: McFadden
Conversion: Sexton
Penalty: Sexton

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Ireland's start was bright, but they
lost possession off their own scrum with three minutes on the clock and
conceded a penalty seconds later which Dan Carter sent over.

The All Blacks went off their feet
two minutes later and Jonathan Sexton levelled matters. The score
spurred the visitors on and Donnacha Ryan, Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy
were all responsible for huge hits.

Brian O'Driscoll found Earls in
midfield and the Munster man set up the charging Simon Zebo, who was
bundled out of play only metres from the left-hand corner.

The momentum was reversed by two
quick penalty concessions and Carter landed a goal-kick from the halfway
line to make it 6-3 with 16 minutes on the clock.

The out-half added three more from a
similar distance as Savea forced a penalty through a hefty challenge on
full-back Rob Kearney.

An Ireland clearance looked to have
Zac Guilford under pressure after 26 minutes, but his drop bounced
backward and he spooned a pass left.

Smith created the opening as he drew
in Fergus McFadden and Keith Earls before offloading. Carter took
possession and slipped Savea in. The winger raced free and touched down
under the posts. Carter added the extras.

Savea broke free again minutes later
as Sean O'Brien missed a regulation tackle and it took a flying tap
tackle from Kearney and good scrambling from Peter O'Mahony for Ireland
to clear.

Bruising: Zac Guildford is tackled by Jonathan Sexton at Eden Park

Bruising: Zac Guildford is tackled by Jonathan Sexton at Eden Park

Charge: Captain Richie McCaw battles forward during the Test against Ireland

Charge: Captain Richie McCaw battles forward during the Test against Ireland

Zebo was Ireland's best attacking
option in the opening half and he was almost clear for a try after 30
minutes, but was chopped down in full flight as he sprinted into the All
Blacks' 22.

Ireland enjoyed a brief attacking
flurry in New Zealand territory, but they were getting knocked back
heavily in the tackle. A big hit on Sexton led to broken play and Zebo
needed to use his pace in defence as he slid in to cover a dangerous
Dagg chip.

Conor Murray needed every ounce of
strength in his scrum-half frame soon after as he repelled a charging
Sam Whitelock at the right corner. Play streamed right to left and Dagg
took a great attacking line before setting up Savea for his second try.

There was attention from Kearney and
Murray and a television replay, but the score was never in doubt. Carter
landed a fine conversion from the left touchline to make it 23-3 at the
break.

Any thoughts of an unlikely Irish
comeback were extinguished within three minutes of the restart as Dagg
and Savea combined again. The All Black 15 twisted and turned his
opposite number in defence before he popped up a pass for Savea to get
his hat-trick. Carter got his third conversion to make it 30-3.

Going down: Brian O'Driscoll is tackled by Victor Vito

Going down: Brian O'Driscoll is tackled by Victor Vito

Intimidation: The All Blacks perform the Haka before the showdown

Intimidation: The All Blacks perform the Haka before the showdown

Lift-off: Fireworks were set off above Eden Park at the end of the performance

Lift-off: Fireworks were set off above Eden Park at the end of the performance

All the attacks were coming down
McFadden's flank but the right winger got some relief as Rory Best
scrambled for possession and Sexton hoofed the ball upfield. The
Leinster man beat Richie McCaw in a foot race to touch down and Sexton's
conversion made it 30-10.

Earls and O'Driscoll then needed to be strong in defence as they held up Keiran Read on the line after a thundering run.

The relief was short-lived as New
Zealand's strong ruck sucked in Irish defenders but not enough to stop
Adam Thomson from crashing over.

Both teams rang the changes with 20
minutes remaining and Ireland weathered another spell of pressure from
the home team and looked to have clawed themselves back into a
respectable position.

McFadden outsprinted Dagg 80 metres
to score under the posts but referee Nigel Owens had already called back
play for an Irish offside.

There was further reason for Irish
hearts to flutter in the final minutes as loosehead prop Cian Healy was
injured and replaced by hooker Sean Cronin.

Smith was then rewarded for a
fantastic performance when he dived over to the right of the posts after
a slick pass from Cruden. Carter added the extras to make it 42-10 and
give the Irish plenty to ponder ahead of next week's second Test in
Christchurch.

Ireland name squad to tour New Zealand

Kidney names three rookies for Ireland's three-Test clash with world champions New Zealand

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UPDATED:

14:35 GMT, 21 May 2012

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has named three uncapped players in his 29-man squad for the three-Test summer tour of New Zealand.

Ulster prop Declan Fitzpatrick and Munster duo Mike Sherry and Simon Zebo have all been included for the series, which gets under way on Saturday, June 9.

Kidney has left four spaces available, with a second row slot being held for Paul O'Connell as he continues to recuperate from a knee injury that ruled him out of the squad to face the Barbarians on May 29.

Kiwi challenge: Declan takes his side to face the world champions this summer

Kiwi challenge: Declan takes his side to face the world champions this summer

Ireland meet the invitational side at Gloucester's Kingsholm ground before travelling to New Zealand, with uncapped trio Fitzpatrick, Sherry and Zebo all selected.

Kidney was not able to call on the services of his Leinster contingent for the non-cap fixture as the province meet the Ospreys in the RaboDirect Pro12 final on May 27.

Ireland squad for summer tour of New Zealand

Forwards: R Best (Ulster), S Cronin (Leinster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), C Healy (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster), S O'Brien (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), M Ross (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster), M Sherry (Munster), D Tuohy (Ulster).

Backs: D Cave (Ulster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Kearney (Leinster), F McFadden (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, captain), R O'Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), J Sexton (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), S Zebo (Munster).

But with Leinster capturing their third Heineken Cup in four years with a 42-14 triumph over Ulster on Saturday, they are unsurprisingly heavily represented for the tour to face the All Blacks.

Eleven players have been selected in total, the most notable of which sees Brian O'Driscoll return for the first time since the World Cup following a shoulder injury and he has been confirmed as captain for the tour.

O'Driscoll, Fitzpatrick, Sherry and Darren Cave are the four new faces to the squad that was chosen for the RBS 6 Nations.

Cave will be hoping to add to the two caps he picked up in the North American tour in 2009.

The other three vacant slots will be filled before the squad departs for New Zealand.

They are expected to be filled by South African born prop Brett Wilkinson, who will replace the injured Tom Court, Ulster back rower Chris Henry and Leinster scrum-half Isaac Boss.

Ireland will first face the All Blacks at Eden Park in Auckland, with Rugby League Park in Christchurch and Hamilton's Waikato Stadium the other venues on June 16 and June 23 respectively.

SIX NATIONS 2012: England 30 Ireland 9: Lancaster"s men end Six Nations on high with Irish rout

England 30 Ireland 9: Lancaster's men end Six Nations on high with Irish rout

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UPDATED:

19:52 GMT, 17 March 2012

England clinched second place in the RBS 6 Nations championship with a comprehensive victory over Ireland that was founded on a destructive scrummaging performance.

Owen Farrell kicked 20 points in another nerveless display but, on this occasion, it will not be England's new golden-boy fly-half who takes the plaudits.

It will be Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole and the destructive England pack who obliterated the Irish scrummage and earned just reward with a second-half penalty try.

Celebrating in style: Owen Farrell celebrates England's win

Celebrating in style: Owen Farrell celebrates England's win

MATCH FACTS

ENGALAND: Foden, Ashton, Tuilagi, Barritt, Strettle, Farrell, Dickson, Corbisiero, Hartley, Cole, Botha, Parling, Croft, Robshaw, Morgan.

Replacements: Brown for Foden (70), Youngs for Dickson (48), Stevens for Hartley (74), Mears for Cole (74), Palmer for Botha (55), Dowson for Morgan (74).

Not Used: Hodgson.

Tries: Penalty, Youngs.

Conversions: Farrell.

Penalties: Farrell (6)

IRELAND: Kearney, Bowe, Earls, D'Arcy, Trimble, Sexton, Reddan, Healy, Best, Ross, O'Callaghan, Ryan, Ferris, O'Brien, Heaslip.

Replacements: O'Gara for D'Arcy (48), O'Leary for Reddan (48), McCarthy for O'Callaghan (66), O'Mahony for O'Brien (69).

Not Used: Cronin, Court, McFadden.

Penalties: Sexton 3.

Attendance: 80,567

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Ben Youngs then came off the bench to score England's second try from a quick tap penalty that had been earned by his forward pack.

Ireland captain Rory Best had described the Irish scrummage as an “attacking weapon” in the build-up to the game but it was a pop gun compared to England's Sherman tank.

England once wasted similar scrummaging superiority against Australia in the summer of 2010, but not today as some old scores were settled.

Twelve months ago, England were caught cold by Ireland in Dublin and saw their Grand Slam bid wrecked at the Aviva Stadium. Today they hit the Irish hard and just kept on hitting.

The one sour note for England was an allegation of biting made by Ireland against an unnamed player which could, if proven, have serious ramifications.

But in the wider context, England have now won four of their five matches and finish the championship as runners-up to Grand Slam champions Wales, a team they pushed to the brink at Twickenham.

Stuart Lancaster's new-look England have no respect for record or reputation.

They won at Murrayfield for the first time in eight years, they ended France's 10-match unbeaten in Paris and this victory was only England's second against Ireland in nine meetings.

Diving over: Ben Youngs scores his try during the RBS 6 Nations match between England and Ireland

Diving over: Ben Youngs scores his try during the RBS 6 Nations match between England and Ireland

Quick thinking: Ben Youngs celebrates his try with team mates

Quick thinking: Ben Youngs celebrates his try with team mates

Lancaster, the interim coach, is expected to be interviewed for the full-time job this week and he could not have done much more to stake his case.

That said, when Brian Ashton guided England to a 33-10 victory over Ireland in 2008 he lost his job to Martin Johnson and the RFU are thought to also be interviewing Nick Mallett.

England established their scrummaging dominance from the outset, earning a penalty from the first set piece which Farrell converted in the third minute.

Try time: Owen Farrell celebrates a penalty try with Tom Palmer

Try time: Owen Farrell celebrates a penalty try with Tom Palmer

Just boot-iful: Owen Farrell had a near perfect success rate with the boot

Just boot-iful: Owen Farrell had a near perfect success rate with the boot

On the money: England's Owen Farrell celebrates his penalty conversion against Ireland with teammate Ben Foden

On the money: England's Owen Farrell celebrates his penalty conversion against Ireland with teammate Ben Foden

Lee Dickson invited pressure on England as he sliced one box kick into touch and then had a second-half kick charged down, both inside England's 22.

It typified an error-strewn first half of spilled balls, knock-ons and turnovers which only served to encourage both fly-halves to take to the air.

Farrell had a tactical kick charged down but the ball rebounded for Brad Barritt who linked with Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton down the right before Mouritz Botha spilled the ball in midfield.

Hand off: England's Brad Barritt is tackled by Ireland's Jonathan Sexton

Hand off: England's Brad Barritt is tackled by Ireland's Jonathan Sexton

High riser: Jamie Heaslip goes up for the line out

High riser: Jamie Heaslip goes up for the line out

Ireland counter-attacked promisingly with hooker Rory Best floating a long pass to Keith Earls but Foden made the tackle and then executed a vital turnover.

Rob Kearney's 45-metre drop goal attempt had crashed back off the post before a Jonathan Sexton penalty brought the visitors level.

England edged ahead with two more penalties from Farrell, the first a reward from another dominant scrum performance.

Face in the crowd: Prince Harry sings the national anthem

Face in the crowd: Prince Harry sings the national anthem

Quick release: Lee Dickson disptaches the ball

Quick release: Lee Dickson disptaches the ball

In between time, Gordon D'Arcy saw an ill-judged drop goal charged down before Ireland lock Donncha O'Callaghan made the allegation of biting.

For all their scrum strength, England were struggling against Ireland's ferocity at the breakdown and twice they were counter-rucked, the second time allowing Sexton to land a penalty.

England were in complete control after the interval, though.

On the run: Ben Morgan hands off Eoin Reddan

On the run: Ben Morgan hands off Eoin Reddan

Stop there: Ireland's' Andrew Trimble is tackled by England's Chris Robshaw

Stop there: Ireland's' Andrew Trimble is tackled by England's Chris Robshaw

Foden ran back a poor kick and then fed Croft who galloped into the Ireland 22 but, just as he looked for the try-scoring pass to one of two men on his inside, the ball slipped clear.

It was agonising for Croft but the England scrum, led by Corbisiero, earned immediate redemption by shoving Ireland back and winning a penalty for Farrell to convert.

Sexton responded before Ireland's scrum-half Tomas O'Leary committed the grave error of carrying the ball back over his own line after sweeping up a Farrell grubber kick.

Job well done: Dylan Hartley, Brad Barritt and Geoff Parling celebrate at the final whistle

Job well done: Dylan Hartley, Brad Barritt and Geoff Parling celebrate at the final whistle

Top performance: Ben Morgan was awarded man of the match

Top performance: Ben Morgan was awarded man of the match

Successful tournament: Captain Chris Robshaw, Tom Croft and Ben Foden celebrate

Successful tournament: Captain Chris Robshaw, Tom Croft and Ben Foden celebrate

England's scrum had a golden attacking platform. They drove Ireland back and referee Nigel Owens blew for a penalty just before Tom Palmer touched the ball down.

Chris Robshaw opted for another scrum, England drove on, Ben Morgan peeled off the back and the Irish back row dived on top of him to concede a penalty try.

Keith Earls made one breakaway but otherwise Ireland spent the last quarter camped inside their own half, taking blow after blow from the England team.

And Youngs, who has struggled for form through the championship, applied the coup de grace for England with a try from a quick tap penalty that had been earned by his dominant forward pack.

SIX NATIONS 2012: France 17 Ireland 17

France 17 Ireland 17: Les Bleus stage second-half fightback to deny Irish in Paris

Ireland were denied a precious victory in Paris when France staged a second-half fightback that concluded in a tense RBS 6 Nations stalemate.

At half-time that elusive first Irish triumph in the French capital since 2000, and only a second in four decades, appeared within grasp.

Two tries from Tommy Bowe, who has now crossed 24 times in 47 games including five times in this Six Nations, offered sight of a rare prize.

Comeback complete: Weiley Fofana scores a try in the second half as France earn a draw against Ireland

Comeback complete: Weiley Fofana scores a try in the second half as France earn a draw against Ireland

MATCH FACTS

France:
Poitrenaud, Clerc, Rougerie, Fofana, Malzieu, Trinh-Duc, Parra, Poux,
Szarzewski, Mas, Pape, Maestri, Dusautoir, Bonnaire, Harinordoquy.

Replacements: Beauxis for Poitrenaud (68),
Servat for Szarzewski (53), Nallet for Pape (61), Picamoles for Bonnaire (71).

Not Used: Debaty, Dupuy, Mermoz.

Tries: Fofana. Pens: Parra 4.

Ireland: R. Kearney, Bowe, Earls, D'Arcy, Trimble, Sexton, Murray, Healy, Best, Ross, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Ferris, O'Brien, Heaslip.

Replacements:
O'Gara for D'Arcy (71), McFadden for Trimble (73), Reddan for Murray
(59), Court for Healy (75), Cronin for Best (75), Ryan for O'Callaghan
(58), O'Mahony for O'Brien (66).

Tries: Bowe 2. Cons: Sexton 2. Pens: Sexton.

Att: 80,000

Ref: Dave Pearson (RFU).

The brilliant Bowe snatched an intercept score from Aurelien Rougerie's loose pass before later completing a fine solo effort.

And with Jonathan Sexton kicking a penalty and two conversions Ireland established a 17-6 interval lead, but they were unable to score again.

Instead it was France who threatened, centre Wesley Fofana pouncing on a loose ball to touch down in the 51st minute and the boot of scrum-half Morgan Parra doing the rest.

The outcome ends the prospect of a Grand Slam decider between Wales and France on March 17, while Ireland's title aspirations are now effectively over.

France were as poor in the first half as Ireland were magnificent, but a more aggressive Les Bleus emerged after the break, displaying greater urgency.

The rivals were originally scheduled to meet three weeks ago only for a frozen pitch to force referee Dave Pearson to postpone the contest 10 minutes before kick off.

And while the rearranged match was no classic, there was enough tension at the Stade de France to make it uncomfortable viewing for supporters.

Only a handful of Irish fans had managed to travel to Paris for a second time in three weeks, though the ground was full.

Flying wing: Andrew Trimble scores a try for Ireland as his side took control in Paris

Flying wing: Andrew Trimble scores a try for Ireland as his side took control in Paris

France, unbeaten until today, recalled full-back Clement Poitrenaud and flanker Julien Bonnaire following their narrow defeat over Scotland and the former was influential early on.

He showed nimble feet to break from his own 22 before play was held up as winger Vincent Clerc recovered from a fierce tackle by Cian Healy.

France were showing some dangerous touches in attack, but their attempts at offloading were repeatedly foiled by Ireland wrapping them up in the tackle.

Lift me up: Yoann Maestri catches the ball during France's Six Nations draw with Ireland

Lift me up: Yoann Maestri catches the ball during France's Six Nations draw with Ireland

Recent Irish attempts at storming the Stade de France have been undermined by a disastrous start, but today it was Les Bleus' turn to implode in the opening quarter.

A ponderous attack from just outside the French 22 reached centre Rougerie, whose lazy floated pass intended for winger Julien Malzieu instead found the lurking Bowe.

The Ospreys winger made light work of the gallop home and when Sexton converted from beneath the posts, Ireland were 7-0 ahead.

On the march: Tommy Bowe looked to have put Ireland on the verge of victory with his second try

On the march: Tommy Bowe looked to have put Ireland on the verge of victory with his second try

Morgan Parra and Sexton exchanged penalties before Bowe almost escaped with another intercept try, though this time the ball slipped from his fingertips.

Ireland's scrum was now in full retreat, allowing Parra to land a monster three points that reduced the deficit to four points.

Prop Cian Healy was lucky to escape a yellow card as he blocked Clerc from an outrageously offside position as France sought to escape down the right.

Easy does it: Jonathan Sexton pops over a conversation for Ireland in Paris

Easy does it: Jonathan Sexton pops over a conversation for Ireland in Paris

Les Bleus' sense of injustice intensified when Parra missed the penalty and then they slipped further behind as Bowe struck once again.

Swift hands and a mix-up in defence allowed him to break free and although it seemed as though he had blown a chance by failing to release Rob Kearney, his chip ahead bounced kindly and he dummied Poitrenaud to stroll over with Sexton converting.

The second half was ushered in by rain and it took Parra six minutes to land his third penalty, but Ireland were soon back on the front foot.

Can we win it Ireland celebrate during their draw with France in the Six Nations

Can we win it Ireland celebrate during their draw with France in the Six Nations

Winger Andrew Trimble had the ball knocked from his hand as he switched with Jamie Heaslip and a fine opportunity vanished.

Irish hearts sank when France touched down in the 50th minute, initially profiting from good fortune during a loose passage of play.

The ball bounced into the arms of Fofana and the centre accelerated clear, out-running Kearney to dive over in the left corner.

Charge: France's Aurilien Rougerie (left) looks for a way past the Ireland defence

Charge: France's Aurilien Rougerie (left) looks for a way past the Ireland defence

The momentum had clearly shifted, a fact underlined when Parra rifled over a long-range penalty to level the score.

Moments later scrum-half Conor Murray was replaced by Eoin Reddan after being stretchered off because of an injury to his right knee.

Ireland then spent a sustained spell in the opposition half but failed to trouble the scoreboard, while Lionel Beauxis sent an ugly drop goal under the crossbar and then saw a second charged down.

France, camped in an ominous position, conceded a penalty with two minutes to go but then had one last throw of the dice only for Kearney to bundle Malzieu into touch.

Six Nations 2012: Ireland unchanged against France

Kidney names unchanged Ireland team for rearranged France clash in Paris

Coach Declan Kidney has kept faith with the same 22 that thrashed Italy 42-10 at Aviva Stadium last weekend and that was selected for the original visit to the French capital.

Scrum-half Conor Murray has held off the challenge of Eoin Reddan, who injected pace into the game after stepping off the bench in the second half at Lansdowne Road.

Lock Donncha O'Callaghan and openside Sean O'Brien also faced fierce competition to remain in the starting XV, but Kidney has retained both.

Same again: Paul O'Connell (left) will lead out an unchanged Ireland team

Same again: Paul O'Connell (left) will lead out an unchanged Ireland team

Ireland team to face France

R Kearney (Leinster), T Bowe (Ospreys),
K
Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster),
A Trimble (Ulster), J Sexton
(Leinster),
C Murray (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M
Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster, capt),
S
Ferris (Ulster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster)

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), P
O'Mahony (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), F McFadden
(Leinster)

'We took a look at how we played against Italy. We have an eight-day turnaround which has given us more time to freshen up,' said Kidney.

'The errors that were made we can adjust and we'll be better for having that 80 minutes under the belt.

'The lads who came on against Italy did exceptionally well and made a hugely positive impact, but I had to weigh that up against the lads who did a lot of the unseen work earlier in the game.'

Ireland's record in Paris makes for grim reading having won in the French capital just once since 1972 and twice since 1952.

Their last victory came in 2000 in a match notable for the emergence of hat-trick hero Brian O'Driscoll, who misses this year's championship after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Perennial nemesis France have emerged triumphant from 11 of the last 12 meetings.

'We've all been to hostile environments with our provinces in the past. We must drawn on that experience,' said captain Paul O'Connell.

The match is being staged on the second of the Six Nations' break weekends after the original fixture on February 11 was postponed 10 minutes before kick-off due to a frozen pitch.

Six Nations 2012: Ireland name team for Italy clash

Ireland resist temptation to rest players for Italy clash

Ireland have named an unchanged starting XV for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium.

Jonathan Sexton has made a full
recovery from the thigh muscle injury sustained before the postponed
match against France and starts at fly-half.

Jonathan Sexton: passed fit to face Italy

Jonathan Sexton: passed fit to face Italy

The fixture launches a gruelling schedule of four games in as many weeks as Ireland suffer the consequences of the aborted showdown at the Stade de France 10 days ago.

IRELAND TEAM

To face Italy in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin (1330 kick-off):

R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster, capt), S Ferris (Ulster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster).

Once Italy have been negotiated, they must relocate to Paris on March 4 before preparing for a six-day turnaround to face Scotland.

They conclude their championship against England at Twickenham on March 17.

'We were tempted to make changes to the team. We had a long discussion about it,' coach Declan Kidney said.

'But this team was good enough to play France so it's good enough to play against Italy as well.

'We need to approach this game by game, rather than as a block of four fixtures, and that's what we're doing.'

Ireland have lost their last three matches at the Aviva Stadium but have never succumbed to Italy in the Six Nations.

Declan Kidney: named an unchanged team

Declan Kidney: same again for Ireland coach

However, last season they required a last-gasp drop-goal from Ronan O'Gara to escape the Stadio Flaminio with a 13-11 victory.

Italy have lost their opening two matches of the championship, away to France and at home to England.

SIX NATIONS 2012: Woe for Wales as Matthew Rees joins injured list

It's more woe for Wales boss Gatland as hooker Rees joins lengthy injured list

Wales' post-World Cup curse has struck again with hooker Matthew Rees ruled out of Sunday's RBS Six Nations opener against Ireland with a calf strain.

The former captain picked up the injury in training and is likely to be out for two weeks, which means he will also miss the match against Scotland at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday week.

World Cup hooker Huw Bennett will keep the No 2 shirt for the start of the tournament, but it only adds to the injury concerns for head coach Warren Gatland, who will name his team tomorrow.

Calf strain: Welsh hooker Matthew Rees (right) is out of the Ireland match

Calf strain: Welsh hooker Matthew Rees (right) is out of the Ireland match

The absence of Rees is the latest blow to Wales, with fitness doubts remaining over centre Jamie Roberts, fly-half Rhys Priestland and flanker Dan Lydiate.

HOW IRELAND LINE UP

R Kearney; T Bowe, K Earls, G D'Arcy, A
Trimble; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O'Callaghan, P
O'Connell (capt), S Ferris, J Heaslip, S O'Brien. Substitutes: S Cronin,
T Court, D Ryan, P O'Mahony, E Reddan, R O'Gara, F McFadden.

The side were already without three of their World Cup tight five before Rees's calf strain.

As for their opponents, Keith Earls has been asked to fill the biggest boots in Irish rugby, having been named by Declan Kidney to replace the injured centre Brian O'Driscoll in Dublin.

Jonny Sexton nudges ahead of Ronan O'Gara in the fly-half pecking order and Andrew Trimble is selected on the wing.

Head coach Kidney said: 'Keith trained really well last week and it was on that basis that we made the decision. He's looking forward to it and obviously has played very well there for Munster.

'All players can adapt. He's played a lot in the position and is comfortable there. Keith has been playing very strongly in the Heineken Cup.'

Six Nations 2012: Keith Earls replaces Brian O"Driscoll for Ireland

Earls handed unenviable task of filling O'Driscoll's boots for Six Nations campaign

Keith Earls has been chosen to replace Brian O’Driscoll when Ireland meet Wales in their RBS 6 Nations opener at Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

O’Driscoll has been ruled out of the entire championship after undergoing shoulder surgery, leaving a void in the position he has filled with such distinction since 1999.

The task of filling some of the biggest boots in world rugby has fallen to Earls, the Munster and Lions back who has scored 11 tries in 26 Test appearances.

Safe pair of hands: Keith Earls will fill the hole left by injured Brian O'Driscoll

Safe pair of hands: Keith Earls will fill the hole left by injured Brian O'Driscoll

Earls has played at outside centre for his province in recent weeks and head coach Declan Kidney felt he was the leading candidate to replace O’Driscoll.

'Keith trained really well last week and it was on that basis that we made the decision,' Kidney said. 'He's looking forward to it and obviously has played very well there for Munster.

'All players can adapt. He’s played a lot in the position and is comfortable there. Keith has been playing very strongly in the Heineken Cup.'

Legend: O'Driscoll has represented Ireland with distinction for more than a decade

Legend: O'Driscoll has represented Ireland with distinction for more than a decade

IRELAND team to face Wales

R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D’Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O’Callaghan (Munster), P O’Connell (Munster, capt), S Ferris (Ulster), S O’Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O’Gara (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster).

Andrew Trimble of Ulster has been selected on the left wing with Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray the preferred half-backs.

Sexton has edged out the more experienced Ronan O’Gara, who must settle for a spot among the replacements.

In total there are only three changes, one positional, to the side defeated 22-10 by Wales in last autumn’s World Cup quarter-final.

The pack is identical to the eight that suffered heartache in Wellington with Donncha O’Callaghan holding off the challenge of Donnacha Ryan in the second row.

The only Test debutant in the 22 is Munster back row Peter O’Mahony, who features on the bench.

Wales, who are waiting for injury updates on key players Rhys Priestland, Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts, name their team for the showdown in Dublin on Friday.

Six Nations 2012: Luke Fitzgerald left out of Ireland squad

Winger Fitzgerald big name casualty from Ireland Six Nations squad

Luke Fitzgerald has been omitted from Ireland's 24-man senior squad for the 2012 RBS 6 Nations.

Fitzgerald, a big-name absentee from last year's World Cup, has instead been included in the second-string Wolfhounds squad to face England Saxons on January 28.

Missing out: Luke Fitzgerald is not in the Ireland squad for the Six Nations

Missing out: Luke Fitzgerald is not in the Ireland squad for the Six Nations

Ireland squad:

R Best (Ulster), T Bowe (Ospreys), T Court (Ulster), S Cronin (Leinster), L Cullen (Leinster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), C Healy (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster), S Jennings (Leinster), R Kearney (Leinster), F McFadden (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), R O'Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), M Ross (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster), J Sexton (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), P Wallace (Ulster).

The Leinster winger has been rejuvenated since his failure to win a spot among the 30 that departed for New Zealand and has been viewed as a contender to replace Brian O'Driscoll at outside centre.

O'Driscoll will miss the entire Six Nations after undergoing shoulder surgery, with Keith Earls, Tommy Bowe or Fergus McFadden competing to deputise.

Ulster's Darren Cave, who has been in superb form and was viewed as a leading contender to replace Ireland's skipper, was yesterday ruled out for six weeks because of a foot injury.

Scrum-halves Tomas O'Leary and Isaac Boss have both been confined to the Wolfhounds with Boss the only member of the World Cup squad selected for the second string.

Geordan Murphy, who also travelled to New Zealand, is absent from the 24 but earlier this month stated he was available in the event of an injury crisis.

Apart from the injured O'Driscoll and Denis Leamy, all 22 who slipped to a 22-10 quarter-final defeat by Wales last October are present among the senior squad.

Time to recover: Brian O'Driscoll will not play in the tournament

Time to recover: Brian O'Driscoll will not play in the tournament

They will be joined during next week's training camp in Limerick by the uncapped Ian Nagle, Peter O'Mahony, Tiernan O'Halloran, Paddy McAllister, Andrew Conway and Simon Zebo.

The 22 to face Wales in the Six Nations opener at Lansdowne Road will be named on Monday week.

Alongside O'Driscoll, Leamy and Cave, David Wallace, Felix Jones, Jerry Flannery, Eoin Griffen and Niall Ronan were not considered due to injury.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney said: 'It's a new tournament for us and for everybody involved, so irrespective of the highs and lows of the World Cup, it is a fresh and exciting challenge for us.

'The tournament begins what is a big year for us, with a three-Test tour to New Zealand to come in June and ranking points all important for the 2015 World Cup in 2015.

'But for all that, the Six Nations always stands out as high point.'