Rugby Union: Pim misses out as Irish selectors rely on Galwey: Gerry Thornley reports from Dublin on a trial in which an experiment in the pack proved a failure

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WITH SOME trepidation and much finger-crossing, the Irish selectors last night played their opening hand in advance of their Five Nations' Championship game away to France on Saturday week.

Save for one notable exception, the day's final trial - in which the Probables (Whites) beat the Possibles (Blues) by 25-14 - was largely ignored. In addition to the reinstatement of the recently suspended tight head Peter Clohessy, the 25-year-old Sunday's Well flanker, Ken O'Connell, has been converted from tight side to open side for his first cap in the forboding Parc des Princes in the absence of Denis McBride.

The chairman of selectors, Noel Murphy, confirmed that neither McBride nor Pat O'Hara had been considered because of injury. Hence it seems safe to presume that the composition of an untried back row took most of the selectors' two-hour deliberations. The experiment of playing Brian Robinson on the open side in the trial has been quickly abandoned - he reverts to No 8 - while Mick Galwey, who was ruled out of the trial with a back injury, has been selected at blind side.

Thus the loser of the day was the Old Wesley blind-side flanker, Chris Pim, who did little wrong for the Probables. The selectors had gambled on going to Paris without a recognised open side and significantly O'Connell was moved across the back row at half-time in the trial.

The Possibles' ability to stay in touch despite scant line-out ball cannot be attributed entirely to O'Connell. There were compelling cases to be made for a number of the understudies, such as hooker Keith Wood, full-back Jim Staples and especially the 22-year-old Possibles left-winger Niall Woods.

Woods was a constant running threat, augmenting Alan McGowan's three penalties with a second-half try and the prospect of Woods on the left and Simon Geoghegan on the right working in tandem is an enticing one.

Geoghegan, Vinny Cunningham and Terry Kingston kept the Probables unconvincingly ahead with second-half tries, Eric Elwood converting two of them and landing two penalties from in front of the posts for a poor success ratio of four out of eight.

The captain, Michael Bradley, is another worry, because of his poor form and a facial injury sustained in the trial which will require an X-ray today.

Whites: Tries Geoghegan, Cunningham, Kingston; Conversions Elwood 2; Penalties Elwood 2. Blues: Try: Woods; Penalties McGowan 3.

Whites: C O'Shea (Lansdowne); R Wallace (Garryowen), V Cunningham (St Mary's Coll), P Danaher (Garryowen), S Geoghegan (L Irish); E Elwood (Lansdowne), M Bradley (Cork Con, capt); N Popplewell (Greystones), T Kingston (Dolphin), P Clohessy (Young Munster), P Johns (Dungannon), D Tweed (Ballymena), C Pim (O Wesley), B Robinson (Ballymena), N Mannion (Lansdowne). Replacement: A Rolland (Blackrock Coll) for Bradley (75 min)

Blues: J Staples (L Irish); T Howe (Dungannon), B Walsh (Cork Con), M McCall (Bangor), N Woods; A McGowan (B'rock Coll), A Matchett (Ballymena); P Soden (Cork Con), K Wood (Garryowen), G Halpin (L Irish), B Rigney (Greystones), J Etheridge (B'rock Coll), K O'Connell (Sunday's Well), E Haldey (Shannon), S McKinty (Bangor). Replacement: K Potts (St Mary's Coll) for Haldey (66).

Referee: B Stirling (Ulster).

IRELAND (v France, Parc des Princes, 15 Jan): C O'Shea (Lansdowne); R Wallace (Garryowen), V Cunningham (St Mary's), P Danaher (Garryowen), S Geoghegan (L Irish); E Elwood (Lansdowne), M Bradley (Cork Con, capt); N Popplewell (Greystones), T Kingston (Dolphin), P Clohessy (Young Munster), P Johns (Dungannon), N Francis (Old Belvedere), M Galwey (Shannon), B Robinson (Ballymena), K O'Connell (Sunday's Well).

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