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Six Nations: Plenty still at stake for Ireland

By Duncan Bech

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has reminded his players that while the RBS 6 Nations title is unobtainable, tomorrow's clash with Scotland remains of critical importance.

The seedings for the 2015 World Cup pool stages will be determined by the International Rugby Board world rankings at the end of the year and Ireland have eight matches to ensure they finish inside the top eight and thus avoid the nightmare scenario of being drawn in a group alongside two major nations.

Among those games are a three-Test series in New Zealand - they have never beaten the All Blacks home or away - England at Twickenham and South Africa at the Aviva Stadium in November.

"The championship's out of reach, but there's a huge amount of stake at the end of November," Kidney said.

"We're very aware of the IRB ranking system and the need to be ranked as high as possible for the next World Cup.

"The ranking system probably only becomes important once every four years in terms of getting something from it, so we're conscious of that.

"I pointed out to the players that given the age profile of our side, 80-90% of them will be hoping to be around for the next World Cup.

"This is their foundation, so they must understand it and don't be saying afterwards they didn't realise.

"It won't make us win the match against Scotland, but it's something to have in the back of the mind."

Regardless of whether a Six Nations title or ranking points are at stake, Kidney insists pride alone should be sufficient to inspire his side.

"The Six Nations is different to other competitions, it's like playing in five cup finals," he said.

"Each game is a cup final in its own right and each day you pull on the green jersey is a huge day."

Openside Sean O'Brien has been ruled out of tomorrow's clash in Dublin because of a foot problem, so Peter O'Mahony takes the number seven jersey.

Rory Best has been named captain after Paul O'Connell sustained a knee injury against France.

It is a role Best has performed twice before for Ireland in 2009 and Kidney had no hesitation in asking him to lead the side in the Six Nations.

"Rory and I have worked together before when we toured Canada and America. It's not exactly new to us," he said.

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