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Kidney makes changes

Ireland have made nine changes for Saturday's showdown with France in Bordeaux as Declan Kidney juggles his playing resources ahead of the World Cup.

Fly-half Ronan O'Gara replaces Jonathan Sexton, who started last weekend's 10-6 defeat by Scotland, with Eoin Reddan joining him at half-back.

The back three remains intact, allowing Rob Kearney another chance to develop match fitness following his return from a serious knee injury.

Keith Earls is given a chance at outside centre, with the versatile Munster threequarter displacing Fergus McFadden onto the bench. Paddy Wallace continues at inside centre.

The pack is stronger than the one in action at Murrayfield, with five players likely to start the World Cup opener against the USA on September 11. The first choice front row of Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross has been selected en masse.

Only Best has a doubt over his position in the pecking order with rival hooker Jerry Flannery, returning from calf injuries, included on the bench once more.

Leo Cullen leads the team for a second time and is joined at lock by Donncha O'Callaghan, with the bulldozing Sean O'Brien named at openside. Having played in the second row against Scotland, Donnacha Ryan is given the chance to underline his versatility by starting at blindside flanker.

Two big names have been included on the bench, with Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip involved in a matchday 22 for the first time this summer. They are joined among the replacements by uncapped scrum-half Conor Murray.

Ireland team: R Kearney (Leinster); A Trimble (Ulster), K Earls (Munster) P Wallace (Ulster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster, capt), D Ryan (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), D Leamy (Munster).

Replacements: J Flannery (Munster), T Buckley (Sale), P O'Connell (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster), F Jones (Munster).


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