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World Cup gains and losses

Ireland ran in five tries to swat a lacklustre Wales aside in the first World Cup warm-up game in Cardiff.

Here, Press Association Sport examines who gained ground and who slipped back in the race for World Cup selection.



The Gloucester fly-half was handed a prime chance to prove himself worthy of the understudy role for Dan Biggar, but Hook just could not offer any control as Wales struggled. The 30-year-old kicked well enough off the tee in his scant opportunities, but failed to man Wales' tiller with any poise or authority.


Fly-half Jackson was challenged to guide Ireland around the field in much the same vein as British and Irish Lions playmaker Johnny Sexton in midweek by defence coach Les Kiss. The Ulster 10 offered up a passable impression of the former Racing Metro man in that regard, but could not mimic the goal-kicking prowess of Ireland's main outside-half. Jackson missed three from seven shots at goal, and one from bang in front of the posts. Taskmaster boss Joe Schmidt rarely accepts his players botching gilt-edged scoring opportunities, and Jackson's goal-kicking shortcomings could prove his World Cup Achilles heel.


Munster flyer Zebo shrugged off Ross Moriarty's crude whack to the face, scored a neat try and offered a solid enough performance. The 25-year-old has hogged Ireland's right-wing berth for the last 18 months with both Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble suffering injury troubles along the way. But now he may well find himself struggling to convince head coach Schmidt that he is worthy of inclusion in the final World Cup 31. Luke Fitzgerald's ability to play centre as well as wing could prove the tipping point, provided the Leinster man proves his fitness after injury issues of his own. Felix Jones impressed in Cardiff at full-back, to the point where he ought now to understudy Rob Kearney at the World Cup.



The Dragons full-back and Cardiff University medical student produced a solid all-round display, even denying Keith Earls a try with a timely first-half tackle. The 20-year-old ought to have done enough to warrant retention in Warren Gatland's squad when the Kiwi coach cuts down his training group by as many as 10 players next week.


Earls' first Test try since February 2012 came as the Munster centre ended 29 months without an international appearance. The luckless flyer's litany of knee and groin issues has caused him huge frustrations in the last two years but all that now looks in the past. The 27-year-old took his try nicely and showed some impressive footwork to outfox Wales in midfield on many occasions. Earls could now well end up making Ireland's final 31, alongside Robbie Henshaw, Jared Payne and Gordon D'Arcy as the four centres, with Fitzgerald again able to switch between wing and midfield. Earls' ability to function on the wing would also prove another boost to Schmidt's resources.


From Belfast Telegraph