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Court set to be Ireland’s newest prop star

By Ciaran Donaghy

Ulster prop Tom Court is set to win his first international cap on Saturday when Ireland kick off their Six Nations campaign against France at Croke Park.

Court is one of three props in the 22-man squad and will be sprung from the bench.

Coach Declan Kidney will start with Munster’s European Cup winning duo Marcus Horan and John Hayes.

Born in Brisbane, Court was a latecomer to rugby having excelled at the shot putt before taking up the game at Queensland University.

He won a Super 14 contract with the Reds before arriving in Belfast in May 2006.

Court played for Ireland A at the Churchill Cup that summer but struggled to establish himself in the Ulster front row during his first season.

This season alongside BJ Botha Court has been a revelation as the Ulster scrum has dominated in the Magners League and in Europe.

One of Court’s main assets is his versatility as he can play on both sides of the scrum, although Kidney may want to use him predominantly on the tight head side as a natural successor to Hayes, who turned 35 last November.

French coach Marc Lievremont has received a boost ahead of the game as captain Lionel Nallet, Sebastian Chabal and Benoit Lecouls have been passed fit for the Dublin clash.

All three picked up minor injures at the weekend while on club duty but have named in the French team.

Meanwhile, Ulster winger Mark McCrea has been drafted into the Ireland A squad for their match with the England Saxons at Donnybrook on Friday night.

McCrea replaces Munster winger Ian Dowling, who was trimmed from the Ireland senior squad but has been forced to withdraw from the A team after tearing a hamstring.

France team (v Ireland): C Poitrenaud (Toulouse); J Malzieu (Clermont-Auvergne), F Fritz, Y Jauzion, M Medard (all Toulouse); L Beauxis (Stade Francais), S Tillous-Borde (Castres); L Faure (Sale), D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), B Lecouls (Toulouse), S Chabal (Sale), L Nallet (Castres, capt), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), F Ouedraogo (Montpellier), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz). Replacements: B Kayser (Leicester), N Mas (Perpignan), R Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), L Picamoles (Montpellier), M Parra (Bourgoin), B Baby (Clermont-Auvergne), C Heymans (Toulouse).

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