Bradley left on sidelines

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The Independent Online
RUGBY UNION

BY STEVE BALE

While Scotland are serene and therefore unchanged as they approach their Grand Slam match against England on Saturday week, Ireland are in such a pickle that yesterday they dropped their captain and made five other changes for the wooden-spoon decider against Wales.

Just as Twickenham will be winner-takes-all - Triple Crown, championship and Slam - so the Arms Park will be loser-takes-all - a whitewash and bottom place, as well as the spoon. Michael Bradley's demotion to the bench is the most obvious way in which the hard-pressed Irish selectors hope to avoid such ignominy.

It was a poignant decision - made by Bradley's father-in-law, the Ireland manager Noel Murphy - coming as it did after a season of personal tragedy during which Bradley has already missed one match due to the death of his new-born son. However, Bradley has been assured he will be very much in the selectors' thoughts when they select the squad for the World Cup.

Philip Danaher and Niall Woods have fallen even further from grace - to the Ireland team who play Wales at A level at Pontypridd a week tomorrow. Bradley is supplanted by Niall Hogan, the gutsy scrum-half who came in against England.

The Lions wing, Richard Wallace, returns on the right, with Simon Geoghegan swapping to the left to Woods' exclusion. Now that he is fit again, Jona- than Bell reverts to his best position at centre.

The captaincy passes to Terry Kingston, who led Ireland against Japan in the 1991 World Cup, and more recently was the midweek captain in Australia where he could not get in the Test team. Patrick Johns is restored at No 8 after illness, with Anthony Foley moving to blind side and Eddie Halvey joining Bradley as a reserve.

Wales, who like Ireland have lost all three, will announce their team today. There was never any doubt that Scotland would reselect the side who beat the Welsh, once it was clear that Damian Cronin's elbow injury had not healed in accordance with the original prognosis, and so it was one of the shortest selection meetings of recent times. Instead, the selectors spent most of their time viewing videos taken at Murrayfield by 13 different BBC cameras.

SCOTLAND (v England, Twickenham, 18 March): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); C Joiner (Melrose), G Townsend (Gala), S Hastings (Watsonians), K Logan (Stirling County); C Chalmers, B Redpath (Melrose); D Hilton (Bath), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Wright (Boroughmuir), G Weir (Melrose), S Campbell (Dundee HSFP), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool), E Peters (Bath), I Morrison (London Scottish). Replacements: C Glasgow (Heriot's FP), G Shiel (Melrose), D Patterson (West Hartlepool), J Manson (Dundee HSFP), K McKenzie (Stirling County), J Richardson (Edinburgh Academicals).

IRELAND (v Wales, Cardiff, 18 March): J Staples (Harlequins); R Wallace (Garryowen), B Mullin (Blackrock College), J Bell (Ballymena), S Geoghegan (Bath); E Elwood (Lansdowne), N Hogan (Terenure College); N Popplewell (Wasps), T Kingston (Dolphin, capt), P Clohessy (Young Munster), G Fulcher (Constitution), D Tweed (Ballymena), A Foley (Shannon), P Johns (Dungannon), D McBride (Malone). Replacements: M Field (Malone), P Burke, M Bradley (Constitution), G Halpin (London Irish), S Byrne (Blakcrock College), E Halvey (Shannon).

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