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O’Driscoll and Kearney back for Ireland as Gilroy starts

Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney have both returned to the Irish starting line up ahead of their fixture with Wales on Saturday.

Both were injured during the autumn series, and with O’Driscoll losing the captaincy to Jamie Heaslip there had been murmurs that he may not start, thankfully for fans of the Leinsterman they were untrue.

O’Driscoll will be partnered in the centres by Gordon D’Arcy for a record 48th time, while Kearney is joined in the back three by the young tyros Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo after they had fans on their feet throughout the autumn internationals.

Jonny Sexton, fresh from the announcement of his move to France, starts at fly half, with Connor Murray supporting him in the 9 shirt.

The pack is much as expected, though the omission of Chris Henry, who impressed has impressed so much for Ulster and for Ireland in the autumn, is a surprise. Instead Sean O’Brien wear the seven shirt with Peter O’Mahony at six.

Jamie Heaslip leades the side from number 8, while Donnacha Ryan and Mike McCarthy are in the second row, a position shorn of Paul O’Connell and Dan Tuohy through injury.

Rory Best gets the nod at hooker, while the ever impressive Cian Healy is at loosehead with Mike Ross on the tighthead side.

As with Scotland though, it is the back three that will have most people talking, in Zebo and Gilroy Declan Kidney has gone with youth and excitement over his more trusted lieutenants Keith Earls, Fergus McFadden and Andrew Trimble (Trimble would have been winning his 50th cap).

“It was a tight call because there’s so much competition. Fergus McFadden and Keith Earls have been playing well, so it’s testament to the way Craig and Simon have been playing that they’re selected,” said Kidney.

It is a tight call that few would disagree with following their displays for Ireland and their provinces.

Ireland team v Wales:

15. Rob Kearney, 14. Craig Gilroy, 13. Brian O’Driscoll, 12. Gordan D’Arcy, 11. Simon Zebo, 10. Jonny Sexton, 9. Connor Murray; 1. Cian Healy, 2. Rory Best, 3. Mike Ross, 4. Mike McCarthy, 5. Donnacha Ryan, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Sean O’Brien, 8. Jamie Heaslip (c).

Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. David Kilcoyne, 18. Declan Fitzpatrick, 19. Donncha O’Callaghan, 20. Chris Henry, 21. Eoin Reddan, 22. Ronan O’Gara, 23. Keith Earls.

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