Keith Earls returns as full-strength Ireland target victory over New Zealand

 

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has named his strongest possible team for the third Test against a New Zealand team weakened by the loss of Dan Carter.

Ireland have been boosted by the return of Keith Earls, who missed the 22-19 defeat in Christchurch and moves from centre to left wing, a position in which he has prospered for the Irish.

Kidney has also drafted in Earls' provincial colleague Peter O'Mahony and Paddy Wallace of Ulster to take the respective places of Jamie Heaslip at number eight and Gordon D'Arcy at inside centre.

The starting line-up is otherwise unchanged from the side that came within 35 seconds of securing a draw with the world champions last week.

Kidney said: "Keith's stated preference is he prefers to play at 13 but Brian (O'Driscoll) is not one to give it up too easily.

"He is a great team player and he is happy to be back in. He has rehabbed quite well, which is a credit to the medical team and himself for getting over (his shoulder injury). He has trained well this week."

Kidney admitted that it was 'not ideal' that Wallace only arrived on Tuesday evening but he feels the coaching staff have allayed any jet-lag concerns.

He said: "Paddy has always been a great player for Ireland. We talk about the squad ethic and what Paddy has given in the background, and in his 10 years' service to the Irish team, has been fantastic."

All Blacks fly-half Carter, who kicked the winning drop goal in the second Test, has been ruled out with a sore hamstring that he strained in training and has been replaced by Aaron Cruden.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said: "On assessment, he has suffered a mild hamstring strain to his right leg which has unfortunately ruled him out of this weekend's Test."

Ireland team to face New Zealand on Saturday: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (captain), P Wallace, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Tuohy, D Ryan, K McLaughlin, S O'Brien, P O'Mahony.

Replacements: D Fitzpatrick, S Cronin, D O'Callaghan, C Henry, E Reddan, R O'Gara, A Trimble.

PA

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