Rugby Union: Faithful Irish select two injured players

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Irish rugby folk used to put their faith in blind passion, washed down with liberal amounts of the black stuff. This week, they are banking on something rather more scientific: their medical team. Pat Whelan and his fellow national selectors yesterday named David Corkery, the outstanding blind-side flanker from Bristol, and Jonathan Bell, the Northampton utility back, in their side to face England at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

Both men will need to respond positively to intensive treatment over the next few days if they are to make the eagerly awaited Dublin date. Bell took a heavy bang during the Saints' victory over Saracens at Franklins Gardens on Saturday, while Corkery is still in some discomfort after suffering a broken bone in his right hand during the Irish triumph in Cardiff 10 days ago.

At one stage last week Corkery felt he might be out of action until mid- March, but the latest medical opinion is far more encouraging and if he is fit it will be an enormous psychological boost for the underdogs.

The Irish have made just one change from the side that beat Wales by a point. Dominic Crotty, the Garryowen left wing, is replaced by Ballymena's James Topping. Bell, who plays on the right wing for Northampton, is named in the centre.

In the pack, Ross Nesdale of Newcastle retains the hooking place after resisting the challenge of the fit-again Allen Clarke, another of Northampton's Celtic brigade. The influence of English rugby could scarcely be stronger, seven of the eight forwards playing in the Courage League.

IRELAND (v England, Five Nations' Championship, Lansdowne Road, Saturday): J Staples (Harlequins, capt); D Hickie (St Mary's College), J Bell (Northampton), M Field (Malone), J Topping (Ballymena); E Elwood (Lansdowne), N Hogan (Terenure College); N Popplewell (Newcastle), R Nesdale (Newcastle), P Wallace (Saracens), P Johns (Saracens), J Davidson (London Irish), D Corkery (Bristol), D McBride (Malone), E Miller (Leicester). Replacements (from): K McQuilkin (Lansdowne), D Humphreys (London Irish), B O'Mara (Cork Constitution), G Fulcher (London Irish), P Slavin (Blackrock College), A Clarke (Northampton), A Foley (Shannon).

IRELAND A (v England A, Donnybrook, Friday): C O'Shea (London Irish, capt); D Crotty (Garryowen), A N Other, K Keane (Garryowen), N Woods (London Irish); P Burke (Bristol), S McIvor (Garryowen); H Hurley (Moseley), M McDermott (Lansdowne), G Walsh (Northampton), M Galwey (Shannon), B Cusack (Bath), E Halvey (Shannon), K Dawson (London Irish), B Cronin (Garryowen). Replacements (from): N Malone (Leicester), A N Other, G Easterby (Rotherham), S Leahy (Garryowen), A McKeen (Lansdowne), S Byrne (Blackrock College).

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