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Fitzgerald could face France

Luke Fitzgerald has an outside chance of being available for the second round of Ireland's RBS 6 Nations campaign.

Fitzgerald was omitted from the 32-man squad named ahead of Sunday's opener against Wales in Dublin as he continues his rehabilitation from a neck injury. But Ireland team manager Michael Kearney has revealed that the 24-year-old Leinster winger could return in time to face France on Saturday week.

"Luke has a neck injury - an issue with a disk - and has been out longer than initially anticipated," said Kearney. "He's improving and we're hopeful that he'll be available for selection within the next week or two. But there's no definitive timeline on his recovery. It's a case of monitoring it and seeing how it progresses."

Kearney added: "He's back doing light training with Leinster and our information is that he won't need an operation."

All eyes will focus on who has been asked to replace Brian O'Driscoll at outside centre when Ireland name their team to face Wales at lunchtime.

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 2009.

Coach Declan Kidney last week stated his replacement would be one of Keith Earls, Fergus McFadden, Tommy Bowe or Andrew Trimble.

Mark Tainton, Ireland's kicking coach who alongside Les Kiss has taken on greater responsibility for the backs, insists the chosen player should not be over-awed by the jersey.

"We've been looking at combinations and have a pretty good idea of who'll be starting at 13," Tainton said. "Whoever is named at 13 for Sunday will obviously be playing on merit. He just needs that total belief in his ability to fill that role.

"Whoever it may be will have been playing in that position for his province or club this season and shouldn't do anything different to what he's been doing. He doesn't need to try and be something he isn't."

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