Rory given best chance
Ireland will give Rory Best every opportunity to prove his fitness after naming an unchanged team for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against Wales.
Best sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder in last weekend's victory over Italy, but the injury has responded well to treatment. The Ulster hooker, who has been in superb form throughout the World Cup, has been named in the XV with Sean Cronin on standby to start if he fails to recover.
"We have to put a team in 48 hours before kick-off," said head coach Declan Kidney. "I wouldn't want to tempt fate by rating Rory's chances, but he's not ruled out which is always the first sign. He had a good day on Tuesday which everyone was very positive about. He's making great progress and we're taking it one day at a time."
If Cronin is drafted into the starting line-up, Damien Varley will be promoted to the bench.
Unsurprisingly, Kidney has retained half-backs Ronan O'Gara and Conor Murray after they impressed in the 36-6 thumping of Italy at Otago Stadium. Once more Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan have been confined to the bench.
"Half-back is the most competitive area of the team. I know it's unconventional to use different half-backs at different times," said Kidney. "When they've been on the pitch they've brought their own things to it.
"For example Jonathan was hugely strong for us in defence in the last 10 minutes against Italy. Eoin robbed two great balls for us in the last 10-15 minutes. Leaving them out isn't easy, but Conor and Ronan have gone quite well for us."
Kidney swatted aside concerns that Wales will target O'Gara's defensive frailties, as they have done in the past under coach Warren Gatland.
"They have quite an array of places where they can attack, I don't think they'll pick anyone in particular," he said. "Wales are a better side now because before you knew where they would attack, but now they attack other places too. It's going to be a case of everyone defending their own zone."