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O’Driscoll backing new boy McLaughlin to deliver for Ireland

By Niall Crozier

The very public acclaim of Irish rugby’s latest cap will have come as sweet music to the ears of Kevin McLaughlin.

At yesterday’s announcement of the team to face Italy, coach Declan Kidney and captain Brian O’Driscoll expressed their admiration for the player and cited their faith in his ability to do the job temporarily vacated by Stephen Ferris.

With the Ulster blindside sidelined by bone bruising, O’Driscoll’s Leinster colleague will get to wear the number six jersey on Saturday afternoon when Ireland host Italy at Croke Park in the opening match of the RBS 6 Nations Championship.

“There’s great consistency to his game. He has been a big impact player for us this season. He has carried well and he has a big work rate. He does the simple things you ask of your number six,” O’Driscoll said.

“People were waxing lyrical about Rocky (Elsom) last year and he was great for us. Then they all wanted to know how we were going to replace him.”

Nodding in McLaughlin’s direction the Irish skipper answered the question he felt others had asked by saying: “Your man here has done a fairly good job at that.”

And stressing just how easily and well McLaughlin had slotted in following Elsom’s departure, O’Driscoll added: “It has been fairly seamless.

“I’m excited for him. It’s a great opportunity for him to play in a Six Nations game for his first cap and I’d just tell him to enjoy the occasion.

“He seems to have it cracked in not worrying about the occasion too much and just taking it as another game.”

Kidney added: “He has fought his way through and my hope is that he will enjoy the week and do no more and no less than what he has been doing for Leinster on a constant basis since September.”

McLaughlin has himself admitted that last season he had begun to think about a career outside rugby and he was quick to pay tribute to the Leinster coaching staff for their support.

“The coaching staff at Leinster have been good to me and kept faith.

“Luckily I repaid them by improving. Now I have my chance in the Irish set-up.

“It's time to repay some of the faith shown in me,” he said.

Asked about the state of health of Stephen Ferris, whose job McLaughlin will do this weekend, Kidney suggested he could be available to face France in Paris on February 13.

“He was very sore last week,” said Kidney, adding that the Ulster flanker had not been able to put any weight on his injured knee.

“We’re hopeful that he could be in contention next week,” he added.

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