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Kidney sticking with winning formula

By Niall Crozier

Irish coach Declan Kidney has given his Twickenham winners a huge vote of confidence by naming an unchanged starting line-up for Saturday’s Croke Park date with Wales.

All 15 of those who started against England on February 27 have been retained, with the only change in the 22 seeing fit again Rob Kearney replace Andrew Trimble on the bench as cover for the back three, albeit that the more versatile Ulsterman would have provided back-up in midfield and out wide.

Prior to the announcement the positions about which there was speculation were tight-head, fly-half and full-back.

John Hayes, who won his 100th cap last time out, was criticised following an uncomfortable afternoon’s scrummaging against the English front row, with Ulster’s Tom Court and Munster’s Tony Buckley in the running to oust the Limerick centurion.

Kidney has gone for the status quo, however, with Hayes (pictured) getting the number three jersey and Buckley the number 17, which means the unfortunate Court once again having been given a ticket home.

The ultimate outcome of the on-going Jonathan Sexton-Ronan O’Gara debate appears to have swung markedly in favour of the former, with the Leinster ace having retained the stand-off’s job at the expense of his vastly more experienced Munster rival.

And Kidney also gave Geordan Murphy the nod ahead of Kearney, now fully recovered from the injury he picked up against France in Paris in mid-February.

Acknowledging that Kearney had “worked very hard” to put himself back in the frame for a recall, Kidney effectively said that he had opted for the Leicester full-back rather than the Leinster man because he had done nothing wrong against England and therefore merited retention.

“Geordan was playing well all last season (before being injured) and I thought he answered the call last week,” he said.

He said that as with out-half he was fortunate in having two very good players in contention.

“There are other players who have been very unlucky, too. Paddy Wallace is one; I can’t speak highly enough of him,” Kidney said of the Ulsterman’s attitude in handling the news that he had missed out once more.

“Sometimes coaches just have to make calls. That’s why Mondays and Tuesdays are such difficult days, though it’s even worse for the players,” he added.

By resisting the temptation to rotate players or tinker with his team, Kidney has put down a clear marker as to his immediate targets. In keeping with his “one game at a time” mantra, his avoidance of the temptation to experiment has made it plain that in his eyes the 2011 World Cup can wait. At this stage his target is victory over Wales with a view to a second successive Triple Crown.

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