Gatland tosses old head Jones the keys to No 10

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The Independent Online

While Warren Gatland was admitting that he had to toss a coin before choosing Stephen Jones over James Hook at fly-half for Wales's Triple Crown shot at Croke Park on Saturday, Eddie O'Sullivan was revealing that his plans were also up in the air.

Because of injuries to Geordan Murphy and Girvan Dempsey, the Irish coach was forced to name that stalwart of the pub XV, A N Other, at full-back. What the Corkman would have given to be in the shoes of Gatland, the coach they have labelled "The Iceman" following his cool start in the hottest seat in rugby, but who should perhaps henceforth be known as "The Diceman" due to his Luke Rhinehart-esque selection technique.

"Warren, what made you go for Jones instead of Hook?" went the first question at the team announcement. The Kiwi thought about it, put his thumb under his forefinger, flicked it and looked up into the sky. "It came down heads," he said.

"It really was that close, a toss of the coin. We talked to both the players and we just said that as James had already produced a big occasion at Twickenham, now we're putting the pressure on Stephen to do the same in Ireland. But listen, we just shouldn't be too obsessed with [No] 10, as we had the same debate with the two loose-heads."

Gethin Jenkins won that 50-50, over Duncan Jones, while Gatland also did much cranium rubbing before opting for Alun Wyn Jones ahead of Ian Evans at lock and for Mike Phillips over Dwayne Peel at scrum-half. In fact, Gatland insisted he had been presented with agonising decisions from one to 15. "A number of players have had a run-out for us in this Six Nations and selection in most areas could be put down to tossing that coin," he said.

There were few surprises in O'Sullivan's line-up, with Rory Best coming in for Bernard Jackman at hooker and Paul O'Connell predictably reinstated in the second row. But there were questions. Murphy is struggling to overcome an Achilles injury while Dempsey is labouring with a bad hip.

"They are nip and tuck in terms of fitness and will be given until Thursday before we decide if they are ready," said O'Sullivan. "Geordan didn't train today and while Girvan did, he's not there yet. Both are a doubt."

If neither recovers in time, Rob Kearney will switch to full-back with Tommy Bowe wearing No 11 and Shane Horgan coming off the bench to play on the right wing. If both do recover, however, O'Sullivan may well have to borrow Gatland's coin.

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